TECHNIQUE #55: Art of the Consequence
We’ve all, as teachers, hit the Rewind button again and again, trying to replicate in our minds how much better we might have handled a disruptive situation in our classrooms. Oh, if only there were a Pause button in real life! Art of the Consequence delves into the subtle variations of how educators might meter out correction and consequence. The “Art” here in #55, is that we’re counseled to leave reprimand & “punishment” out of the alternatives and seriously asked to consider Correction vs. Consequence. Do we skillfully ask students to readjust their behavior or is pertinent to apply a tax to the disruption. The mindful educator should minimize the minutes that consume active learning; artfully being able to forge ahead and maintaining composure with enthusiasm is the goal of the following behavior management suggestions.
Art of the Consequence: “Ensure that consequences, when needed, are more effective by making them quick, incremental, consistent, and depersonalized. It also helps to make a bounce-back statement, showing students that they can quickly get back in the game.”, (p.406)¹.
Principles of the Effective Consequence:
- Quick: Immediate association of the action (NOT the person) to the consequence.
- Incremental: Giving a smaller consequence in the moment. Let students learn from mistakes at “manageable cost”. First response: Issue a disincentive. “Save your nuclear bombs for nuclear moments”.¹
- Consistent: Use the same language and approach to sub-par behaviors. Reduce the guess work for students about what issuing a consequence results in. Consequences apply for any activity or location! Playground, hallway, math lesson, reading time on the carpet; all restrictions/expectations apply!
- Depersonalized: Emotions distract students from reflecting on the behaviors. Focus on privacy during redirection or metering out consequence; briefly highlight the action not the person.
There are several examples in the text¹ of reward/tax systems in place in observed classrooms. Traffic light: Green, Yellow, Red, “Scholar Dollars”, Three Strikes etc. I’ve never implemented the “rewards tickets/dollars” scheme in my classroom and often wonder how cumbersome and time consuming this strategy can become. I do admire the crisp, clipped, unemotional sample statements provided in this section. Examples of simple narrated teacher reactions for consequences from Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹.:
- “David, hands, check”
- “Micheal, tracking, talking, two dollars”
- “Susan, off task, Yellow”
- “Gentlemen, go back to the door, enter the room again like scholars” avoiding (“Gentlemen, I will see you here after school for your ridiculous entrance”.)
Principles of Delivering a Consequence:
- Limited verbiage! Less is more.
- Tag the Behavior: Accurately, briefly denote the behavior
- Reinforce that all students are accountable. It’s not personal.
- Use a Bounce-Back Statement: convince students of the value moving forward, returning to the task at hand and reinforce the goal of productivity in the room.
- Socialize students to persevere. “persist in the face of emotional duress”.
- Maintain the Pace: Do not respond to behavior by giving a lecture. Describe, quickly, what all students should be doing.
- Get Back on Track: Immediately after delegating consequences, return to the current classroom task with warmth and enthusiasm. If possible, fold the offending student into the task by asking him or her an encouraging question or asking them to play a roll in the learning task. Model forgiveness when possible. Here’s an ideal video clip, the teacher Bridget McElduff, reacts to an instance of “snickering”, laughing at another student’s reading and responds, quickly, privately, after deftly giving the entire class 4 questions to answers, and corrects and interacts with the offending student:
Again, I feel the text¹ offers some invaluable language and examples of do and don’t responses to critical behaviors. Here is where the Pause and Recall function plays a very mindful place in the teacher’s repertoire of calm, consistent responses:
- “Michael, we need you listening”, NOT “Michael, for the last time, why can’t you listen along with us?”
- “Susan that two strikes, pencil moving, thank you”, NOT “You just earned two strikes because you made a bad choice to doodle on your desk instead of completing your worksheet”
- Touching the student’s desk, “-Two dollars. Pick up your pencil, get back to writing like I know you can”.
The final segment in Art of the Consequence sets up the dichotomy of Consequence Vs. Correction. Does the behavior in question warrant a Tariff or is this a moment for quick realignment? I found this to be very helpful. Recently, as a substitute, I assigned a swift Consequence to two boys = Sent to the Office. After two attempts to give the classroom instruction on the days assigned tasks, impeded by high volume socializing mostly coming from the two boys in question, I paused, looked several students calmly in the eye, and began again, “Today, you’ll start by reading this….”What, I can’t read!”, “Yeah, I can’t read either”, “But I can’t read!”, loudly shouted the boys, in jest. I walked over the phone, called the office, sent them to the office. Is this “passing the buck”, lazy teaching, or justifiable? I’ll reference and work through this particular situation in the the Reflection and Practice task at the end of this chapter.
The Million Dollar Question: Consequence or Correction?
- Persistence and repetition. Consequence YES: if students that know they shouldn’t, persistently engage in off task behavior. YES: if students’ off task behavior has already been addressed with a correction.
- Degree of disruption: Consequence No: If students behavior is not disrupting others’ abilities to be on task. YES: if off task behavior impedes classroom instruction.
- Motivation: Consequence YES: if student is testing your expectations. Willful defiance that is tolerated corrodes your authority in the classroom.
- And, nor or: You can give a correction and a consequence. Lead with the correction; demonstrate to all students that compliance with behavior X does not have to lead to a consequence and this is how it may be amended in advance.