Mar 03 2011
A Disciplined Classroom–Teaching Students to Take Responsibility by Writing a Formal Apology
It happened today…I had to hold 4 students after class because they were loud and disruptive during video presentations by other students. How and why does this happen? Haven’t I written posts about creating and keeping discipline in the classroom? Grrrr…why is it that I am still having issues?
Duh…8th graders are going to act like 8th graders even if I have made every effort to keep them productive and engaged.
So, today my kids were loud…very, very L-O-U-D! I kept the offenders after class and asked them to write a letter to me with the problem they caused in class, and what they could do differently next time. Great idea, right? Let me show you (verbatim) what I got back from one student:
I am really sorry for what happened in class today, however, I don’t understand why I’m getting into trouble when I wasn’t the only one. I will write your note, but I really need you to tell me what I did because I am unsure. Ok, I did tell someone to shut up but it was because I was trying to learn from the presentation. I WAS loud, and I’m sorry for that but, again, I wasn’t the only one. I guess what I will do in the future is never talk to you again or speak in class, ever. I guess I can try to follow all your rules and I’ll always be mute!
Wow…fantastic! I should be nominated for teacher of the year by the looks of that response! But, I was able to ask that the letter be redone with a few changes (accept responsibility, be remorseful, what changes will take place in your behavior?). She complied with a thoughtful letter after our talk. Here are a few suggestions for a student who gives you a half-hearted apology when they need to make things right:
- There must a be true apology…now, I can’t tell if they really do mean it, but “fake it ’til you can make it” right?
- There must be owning up to the misbehavior…no blaming on someone else, no skirting their responsibility
- There must be a plan of action to prevent the misbehavior in the future…what will the student do differently?
- There must be a replacement behavior for the old one…if the student talks out of turn, ask them if they can place their hand over their mouth when they feel like they are going to speak out until the teacher has time to call on them
- There must be a change in the student or they need a plan created by the teacher/parent and or student…if a student can’t change misbehavior after being prompted, they will have to have a behavior plan created for them
I think the best outcome for misbehavior is that the child learns from his mistake. Today was a teachable moment for my students and me; a student learned how to apologize correctly for misbehavior and how to find a replacement for that behavior. I learned that no matter how much I know about discipline, students will always push boundaries and I have to be prepared to help them with a life skill; if you mess up, apologize and move on.