Teaching Responsibility

Actions Bring Consequences

Effective classroom management strategies are often based on simple concepts. Teaching responsibility in the life of a child means learning to face up to consequences. It’s as simple as that. Helping her develop a willingness to accept responsibility for her actions – no matter what – is a big part of helping her grow up.

Aside from accepting responsibility for academic success, which is best addressed by teaching honesty, the most-critical area of responsibility is behavior.

Responsibility for Behavior

After getting to know your kids and their personalities (and their potential for mischief), you must back that up with intentional vigilance. It can be draining to deal with behavior and some teachers drift toward simply choosing not to notice it – you don’t have to address what you don’t see. This is not on the list of effective classroom management strategies.

This becomes the proverbial vicious circle, where allowing misbehavior encourages more misbehavior.

Responsibility for behavior cannot be “taught” in the normal sense – via lessons and homework. Rather, it must be taught situation-by-situation as the need arises, as part of communication in the classroom. It can be a quick thing such as:

Oh my! The back table is a mess! Would the people responsible clean it up, please?

Then when cleaned, make a point of saying:

Thank you Ray and Sarah for being responsible for your supplies.

"There's nothing to clean up...this is art!"

“There’s nothing to clean up…this is art!”

My favorite way of encouraging responsibility is noticing when students take responsibility for their behavior without my help. Then I make sure to let them know so the class hears me.


Tyler forgets to grab an eraser for whiteboard math and takes Quaria’s instead. When Quaria can’t find her eraser, Tyler says:

I have it Quaria; I took it because I forgot mine. Can we share yours?

I stop my teaching to say:

Hey Tyler, thanks for taking responsibility for your actions. Quaria, thanks for your willingness to share!

Then back to teaching.

Responsibility…taught consequence by consequence

Situation by situation, five seconds at a time…that’s all it takes to make teaching about responsibility a reality.