How to Feel Better About Behavior Referrals

I sigh as I look at the behavior referral form. I try to minimize the number of students I refer to the office but I have no choice. The student grabbed another student by the throat which is an “automatic mandatory reporting” offence at this school.

My prep period drains away as I answer all the questions and fill in all the boxes. And then I get to the question I dread the most:

Behavior ReferralHave you contacted the student’s family? __Yes  ___No  You are required to contact the student’s family before submitting a discipline referral.

I think this is kind of unfair since I didn’t want to fill out the referral anyway. Plus I know this conversation will not go well. The parents of this student hate the school and all its horrible staff. They hate me most of all.

I am not in a good mood.

Hate Discipline Referrals?And then I remember the advice about five positive interactions for every negative and I think, “I wonder if I can apply this to myself? How could I have five positive interactions before facing this negative parent?”

So I make a list of five great students in my class. Actually, once I think about it, I have many more than five. Beside each name I write one or two positive things each of these students did recently. Then I pick up the phone and call their families, not to make THEM feel better, but to make ME feel better.

When I get those parents on the phone I tell them thank you for allowing me to work with their amazing kid. I give an example of something the student did recently that I really appreciate. And by the time I get down to the discipline referral call I’m in a much better mood.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the heat of teaching it’s sometimes easier to see what’s going wrong than to recognize all the hundreds of things that are going right in that moment. But noticing, acknowledging, and expressing gratitude for the positive stuff can give us the strength to deal with the negative stuff.

There’s an added bonus, too. When students see and hear us recognize positive behavior they often try harder, especially if we are specific about what we recognize. (“I see you helping your friend – thank you,” instead of “Nice job!”)

Now what about you? Have you ever tried “five positive for every negative” on yourself? Or have you ever made compliment calls to families? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres,

PS – Would you like more practical classroom management strategies that work? Check out the Monday Morning Sanity Boost archives. If you like what you see, you may want to gain access to even more strategies that I only share with Awesome Teacher Nation members. You can join here. It’s free!

Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources


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  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2

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