February 4, 2013

Dealing with Discipline

I'm writing today's post in hopes that some of you can offer some advice. As I've mentioned before, the students in my school are very... er... challenging. Discipline, once beyond the classroom teacher, though, has become, in my humble opinion, very inconsistent. Let me explain what I mean...

For our school-wide PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, for those that aren't familiar) tracking, we use a system called Kickboard. At the beginning of each week, students are given $100 on their paychecks. Money can be added or deducted based on behavior from any staff member in real-time. Minor incidents that impact only the student in question, are worth $4, repeated offenses or those that disturb others are $8, violations that interfere with the learning environment (disrespect to others, talking back to teachers, consistently not following directions, etc.) are $15, and $25 are reserved for the major offenses like fighting. Our goal is for every student to maintain an average of $80 per week in order to participate in our school-wide celebrations, and at the end of each week, students with averages of $100 or more can choose a smaller reward (extra hour of PE, office helper, food certificates, etc.).

Paychecks are handed out to students (although I think they should be emailed directly to parents) at the end of each week, including an itemized list of additions and deductions with comments (warnings) from staff members. For most students, either the intrinsic reward, lack of consequences, or the smaller rewards we offer have been enough to keep behavior in check.

For other students, though, this paycheck system is a joke. By the end of today, for example, I have 5 students who are already below $50 for the week (one was at $24 by the end of third period). These students, of course, receive consequences of parent phone calls, silent lunch (two deductions in any day), after school detentions (any $30 loss in one day), and suspensions (at the discretion of our Dean of Students).

Some of my students can go from a simple $4 warning to $19 or more in mere seconds because they can't handle being redirected (even though they get two warnings before their first deduction) and they "flash out" on teachers for daring to deduct their money. It's a constant battle, trying to teach these students that there are better ways to express their frustrations or to just follow the directions the first time they're given.

Recently, the problem is that our ISS numbers are simply too high (once again, consider our population), and it just doesn't look good to the state. The newest solution has been to put students in ISS only for the teacher(s) where they had offenses the previous day because this is seen as a "time out" and doesn't have to be logged in the state tracking system. In my opinion, though, this is not effective. Especially because students can be put in this "time out" for incidents that happen out of the classroom. For example, today I deducted a student several times for hallway violations and for refusing to follow directions at lunch. He is now removed from my class tomorrow, and I'm the bad guy because I'm the one that stepped up and deducted him, even though several other teachers were present.

I have five students going to "time out" from my classes tomorrow. Five! And one who is suspended out of school. And I feel like this reflects negatively on me!

I'm at a point where I kinda want to stop doing deductions because I feel like I have to be the fall guy when my coworkers refuse to follow through (often because it's already been established that I will be the person to do it, like in lunch). At the same time, though, the behavior I deduct is absolutely deserving of consequences, and I don't want these kids to think it's okay.

Suggestions??

9 comments:

  1. It sounds like the system is ridiculous from it's very foundation on upward. You are doing your best with what is available, and if making sure kids have consequences for their bad behavior is bad then baby I don't wanna be right ;) I started working as a teacher's aid on January 7th of this year, and the lack of consistent discipline and the outrageous behavior that is tolerated by the faculty is exactly why I started seeking out communities of middle school professionals on the internet. I'm glad you are addressing this issue in public and I cannot wait to see feedback from others!

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    1. Welcome to my blog! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts... I'm always interested in hearing other opinions! If you're interested, you can follow (click on the link on the right side bar) me and be notified when there's a new post!

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  2. There really is no easy answer to this one. I have so many questions about your system! What grade levels is the system in place for? How do students actually "lose" their money? DO they have some sort of a card on them at all times for you to stamp, or what? It sounds like kind of nightmare to track. How do you know what teachers in other rooms are doing - especially in the hallway/lunchtime behavior? I like the rewards part of the system -at least the kids who deserve it will get something for having to put up with the poor behavior around them. I don't know, but it seems like you're caught in a trap. You must be consistent, but when you're the only one (one of few actually being consistent) it kind of squashes your spirit and is exhausting. When you don't feel supported from other staffers - ugh...tough...tough situation! I'm going to think about this a bit more and see what I can some up with for you. I also posted this blog post on my FB page. Maybe someone out there in Blogland has a response for you that will actually help!http://www.facebook.com/LessonsFromTheMiddle/posts/205479419598038?comment_id=779434

    Krystal
    www.lessonsfromthemiddle.com

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    1. Thanks, Krystal, for the feedback and for posting this on your FB page for more advice. Let me answer some of your questions:

      1. This is a middle school setting, grades 6-8.
      2. Students "lose" money when teachers enter deductions on the Kickboard system. It's digital, and we all have access via our iPads. Students are supposed to be told of each deduction, and we (or at least I) routinely tell them their balance. Paper copies are handed out of the final paychecks at the end of the week, which also tell the semester average.
      3. When you log into the class, you can see all additions, deductions, and notes from any other staff member for each student. (This works for us because our students are tracked with the same class ALL DAY... but that's another post for another day.)

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  3. Hi, Erin -
    I'm so sorry that you're feeling as you are. I've been there, too. When I started teaching in our middle school (which was grades 6-8 and is now actually a 5-8 building)we used a merit/demerit system building-wide. It sounds very similar to what you described, except that this was like 16 years ago and all record keeping was on paper...which was a nightmare in and of itself! Besides the mere logistics, the big problem was the whole "good cop/bad cop" scenario that was set up; individuals have different tolerance levels for poor behavior and some chose to ignore while others chose to give demerits for things that could have been rectified with a simple conversation. Needless to say, this system changed and evolved as staff and administrators moved in and out of our district, and now with PBIS...it's a whole new game. And believe me, still a frustrating one with no easy answers.

    That all being said, I've given your situation as described above a lot of thought...and I do have a suggestion. I'm wondering how long this system has been in place in your building. You see, if it's relatively new, students are going to be testing it like crazy. Who can they push? Who can they count on to look the other way? Where do they need to toe the line? All of us who have spent time in MS know that our students' behavior rarely is a personal attack on a specific teacher...and more about bigger things. It seems like there is a lot of testing going on right now, and unfortunately, you're caught in the middle of it (no pun intended :) ). As frustrating as it is, you can only control what happens in your classes...so...can you make the system work for you? What if you decided to give a reward of your own at the end of each week - say "$30" to be added to anyone's paycheck at the end of the week? During the week, catch kids doing the right stuff in your room (or the hall by your room)and give them a ticket to put in a container for that period. The more tickets, the more chances to win a part of that $30. On Friday, roll a die and that's the number of tickets you draw (no more than 6...so no less than $5 a person). The kids won't know until you do who will win, so most kids will be "all in" from the start. Your testers may not be at first, but once you start giving rewards for the good stuff...you might be surprised. I know it sounds a bit babyish for middle school, but I did something very similar last year for my 7th graders in the beginning of the year - and they LOVED it. It only really takes a few minutes on Friday for the drawing - and actually saves time when you think about the potential for improved behavior. To my surprise, my 8th graders were upset that I didn't plan to do it for them, so I included all my classes. Eventually I moved the tickets from recognizing proper behavior, which became pretty automatic after a while, to recognizing students practicing skills like annotating a passage or using 3 supporting details in answering a question. I've taken a year off this year to be home with my son, but I plan to be back in September and will start the year off with a similar plan.

    PHEW...that was a lot, and I'm sorry for the crazy-long comment! I just wanted to help - if I can at all. I hope, even if my specific idea won't work for you, I may have gotten you thinking about a way to make the rest of your year a little less frustrating.

    Wishing you patience and perseverance!
    Stephanie

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Stephanie! I really like your suggestion, and I think I could make it even more immediate if I just tell them upfront that I will award $10 each day to students who students who follow directions. I'm SO not above using bribery to get my students to behave! Those intrinsic motivations will just have to come later! :)

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  4. I think that's a great suggestion Stephanie - worth a shot! It will reward those who are doing what they should be, and one can only hope it'll pull the others in. Congrats on your little one.

    Erin, I hope your week's gotten better Erin. Oh and the fact that you're tracking all of this with technlogy makes so much more sense! I had nightmares of you running around taking "cash" from your students...horrifying...digit makes the system doable. You're so lucky to have those iPads (we don't have any in my school and so when we were using a tracking system it was "The Clipboard" and was all done on paper (yes a nightmare of paperwork)but it served a purpose. I'm still thinking aboutt his and trying to get other answers for you:)
    Krystal

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    1. Digital is definitely better than paper, but I swear I could easily spend the entire class period documenting behavior in this system. The expectation is that we use the comment section to write out the two interventions we tried before administering any deduction, and that's the part that takes forever.

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  5. What? That's so time intensive! Where do you find time to teach and get those test scores up? ;) Man, sometimes we get so wrapped up in how to solve the problem, that it just creates all sorts of other problems. Sometimes the system is part of the problem (not sure if that's the case here). I think what it all comes down to is that you/we need a strong and consistent administration. It totally depends who is steering the ship - we need a leader at the helm and then everything seems to fall into line.
    Krystal

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