You are not alone when dealing with classroom discipline, especially when dealing with tough cases. Sometimes you need to involve your principal, but let's take a look at other resources that can be available in many districts.
Your school counselor can provide another set of eyes to observe behavior in the classroom. She will also:
- Be a liaison between the classroom and the student's family (in addition to your efforts), encouraging family support and involvement
- Arrange for other school or community services
- Coordinate with state, county or community child protective services, as needed.
Develop a good working relationship with your school counselor as soon as possible; it is highly likely that you will have need of this resource every year at some point.
Your school may have some kind of child study team to which you can bring a challenging student for ideas. It will often include experts mentioned on this page. Ask your counselor or principal about getting on the schedule for a discussion.
Be prepared and don't waste others' time with poorly-quantified anecdotes rather than real data and full background information.
Be warned that you'll most likely need to check your ego at the door. Many of the suggestions may seem to imply that you haven't tried even the most basic things that any teacher would try, or will suggest that the members of the team could handle discipline in the classroom better than you.
While it is not right, it is natural – think how self-assured you become when a friend asks you for advice. It is much easier to confidently solve someone else's problems than to address your own.
Be patient, be calm and take some time after the meeting to sift out any nuggets of good advice and put them into action.
A behavior specialist can observe in your classroom and help identify and quantify the behavior that is occurring, then discuss strategies for success. Behavior specialists focus on the actual behavior, although they are certainly qualified to help with addressing causes.
A district or school psychologist can also observe and help you troubleshoot a classroom discipline situation. A psychologist looks at the whole child, even the aspects beyond the current behavior issue. They are often in charge of assessing a child for an IEP, particularly the classroom behavior component if it is applicable.
School psychologists can coordinate with community-based mental health agencies who may be able to work with the family if such an approach has merit.
While all districts have someone on staff charged with tracking absences and following state laws on school attendance, some will have a specific person whose sole job it is to do so. If your discipline problem involves poor school attendance, this person will be your resource to address this issue with the family.
Police or School Resource Officer
As noted on the outright defiance page, the police can sometimes have a role to play in removal from the classroom if the student is endangering himself or others. They can unite kids who need to leave the school with parents who are unwilling to participate constructively in the classroom discipline process.
Some larger districts have specific police who are designated to work with the schools and who are called School Resource Officers or something similar. They are most often based in high schools, but often have a few elementary schools for which they can provide services on request.
When to bring in the experts
If you are serious about addressing a tough classroom behavior issue, you need to seriously consider involving some of these resources from the start. You'll naturally cross paths with them when investigating causes of misbehavior.
Moving to the next level of active involvement should occur when your initial efforts are not making much of an impact. Don't hesitate to get help – just be sure that you are seeking insights to improve your own approach, not dumping on others to avoid doing the hard parts of classroom discipline.
Work with your principal in an active partnership. She may be hesitant to try some classroom discipline approaches (such as School Resource Officer involvement) but take the position that you simply want to give different things a try for the benefit of the student, her classmates, the family and the school as a whole.