Why managment ‘systems’ don’t work in middle or high school.
By management ‘system,’ I mean some kind of incremental consequence ladder that you keep track of on a chart or with a clothespin that you, or the students, move to keep track of where each student is.
When you were in middle or high school, do you ever recall any of your teachers having such a system? The fact is that this is an idea which might work in elementary school with all-day self-contained classes, but it breaks down when you move to a set up where you get new students every fifty minutes.
Here’s are some reasons why:
When you use these consequence trackers, generally everyone gets a ‘fresh start’ each day. What this means is that everyone is entitled to get one warning. Whatever your first consequence is, it’s probably something like a warning. So if nearly every one of your 34 kids gets this first consequence, you’ve wasted a lot of time, and nobody has really gotten into any trouble. Getting your clothespin moved to the second level becomes some kind of club that everyone wants to be in since there’s no real consequence there.
Often these complicated systems require posters and string and clothespins. You’d have to make five of these if you have five classes and maybe even be carrying them around the different rooms you teach in.
I’m not telling you this to scare you. I say it since I’m worried that you might think that this consequence system is some kind of safety net that will help you when kids misbehave. It won’t. This doesn’t mean that you’re doomed, however. What it means is that you’ve got to focus on PREVENTING discipline problems. If you fail to prevent most problems, any management system will be stretched beyond it’s capability. And if you prevent problems, you don’t need a complicated system. In other words, the complicated system does nothing except make you feel like you’ve got a safety net, which you don’t. That feeling of having a safety net means that down in your subconscious you feel like it’s OK to make a bunch of typical new-teacher mistakes. It’s not. If you make too many, you will have a very tough year. Your complicated management system will eventually become a joke which you will abandon.
You can read the rest of my old blog entries to see what some of the mistakes you want to avoid are.