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    nip it in the bud
    By Carolyn

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    I hate to use such a trite expression, but my best advice is to "nip it in the bud." I have been in public education since 1985, and I used to sub daily and long-term. I have taught fifth grade students for six years, and have also taught other grades.

    When I subbed, it seemed to me as if I got "those" classes on occasion. Nothing seemed to work with their behavior. They just wanted to be rude and test me. I would leave the school wondering how I could have done things differently and how I would handle such a situation in the future, should it arise. Of course, the situations did arise again, and I was better prepared to handle it, because I reflected upon the mistakes I made.

    My advice: Let the kids know as soon as you begin the day that you expect to have them follow a discipline code. Don't be a bully about it; just be firm and let them know what your expectations are up-front. At the first sign of trouble, model the consequences you have set up for them. Make an example of a child who is talking, for example. Begin with a warning, then take away a privilege--usually recess. Once the child has lost recess and still causes trouble for you, send him/her out of the classroom to another teacher (arrange this is advance) where he/she will no longer be drawing the desired attention and disrupt the class. Allow the child to return with the specification that if he does not follow your expectations to the letter, he will be sent to the office.

    Trust me: I have never known any principal who frowns upon a teacher, full-time or sub, who sends a child to the office for 1) continuous disruption; 2) disrespect; 3) physical abuse of another student. Don't feel as if the principal will think you are not an effective teacher just because you are sending a child to the office. You will let the principal know, of course, that you have gone through the entire discipline plan and that the child continues to disrupt the class. At the first sign of disrespect, I would send the child right to the office. Principals don't expect subs to put up with that any more than than expect us, the full-time teachers, to put up with it.

    I sent two students to the office yesterday. Both were suspended. My principal knows that I go through the entire discipline plan before they get to that point. He also knows of the students' previous history. (This is an important point, also. You probably had trouble with children who have a history of behavior problems, so the principal should understand. "Oh, here's Johnny in my office again.") One student was suspended for continuous disruption of the classroom after he had: had a warning, lost recess, spent time in time out, returned to class, continued to disrupt the class, and been returned to time-out again. The other was suspended for throwing rocks at other students on the playground and hitting them with them.

    It's important not to argue with kids. When the kid came in from the playground, I just calmly wrote the referral to the office, then without saying anything more to the child, I sent him with a reliable student and the referral to the office. Keep in mind that you are not the guilty one, and you do not have any explaining to do. The child has plenty.

    I had a child try to argue with me about something today. I just firmly put my foot down and ended the conversation by telling him that if he didn't do as he was told, I was going to take him to the phone and have him call his mom. That ended the arguing and whining which I was beginning to hear.

    Don't raise your voice and yell. This gets them riled up further. Try to remain calm and explain in a calm voice what you expect and what will happen if they don't follow your directions. You will be amazed by the calmness you will receive in return for your own calmness. (I know it's hard!)

    Show a sense of humor whenever it's appropriate. A joke sometimes dispels tension among children.
    When a girl came to me one day and told me that a certain boy was "picking on me," I took them both aside and told them that it must be love. They both nearly rolled over with laughter, then went their separate ways without further comment.

    Leave a note for your regular teacher. We always want to know how things went in our absence. We sure don't want you to be miserable in our absence.

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