The Cost of Coasting

Summer break is on the horizon and you can feel it in the air at many schools.  In Houston, school is over at the end of May, so teachers and students alike are finding it a little tough to stay focused.  With all of the ‘senioritis,’ kids not doing homework, and minor misbehaviors cropping up, it’s easy to only think about it from the student side.  But consider how we may be contributing to the problem, as well.  When we start counting down the days until summer, easing up on discipline, or coasting through a lesson or two, we are sending the message that it’s okay for our students to start coasting, too.  The problem, though, is that it can have some serious consequences for our students.  It is not rare for seniors to have a college acceptance revoked due to grades or a disciplinary issue.  For younger students, some still need to make a high grade in one or more subjects to pass and a less structured environment won’t help them get there.  And if our behavioral expectations relax, we’re inviting more serious behaviors that can lead to serious consequences like suspensions or expulsions that often negatively impact kids both personally and academically.

Now I’m not saying all the squirrely behavior is our fault, but for those of us who believe that the teacher sets the tone for the classroom and that leadership sets the tone for the school, there’s a lot we can do to help make sure our students keep focused and on track.  Here are some areas to keep an eye on and strategies for keeping everyone moving in the right direction:

Try a new instructional strategy.  Trying something new keeps you on your toes, so if the kids pick up on how enthusiastic, focused, and alert you are in class, they’re likely to respond in kind.  Click here for a recent post with ideas for new things to try.

Keep the first 5 minutes tight.  The very beginning of class really sets the tone, so make sure it’s just as tight as ever.  Changes to your entrance procedures will definitely be noticed by the kids, so be especially attentive here.

Do a quick reset.  If you have been guilty of counting down to summer or letting your class get a little more relaxed, take a few minutes tomorrow to reset your expectations.  State the problem, commit to how you’re going to change moving forward, tell them what you expect from them, explain why it’s important, and then get on with the learning!

Be a presence on campus.  Before school, between classes, lunch, and after dismissal are prime times for restless kiddos to get up to no good.  Especially if some of the staff are restless, too, and not always showing up for lunch duty or bus duty, rally yourself and your colleagues to be a positive presence in the hallways and parking lot during those key times to deter possible problems.

Narrow your focus.  Identify the 1-2 students who may have the most to lose by losing their focus – the ones who are at-risk of failing your class or who have already been suspended numerous times – and give them some extra attention.  Whether they need someone to hand-deliver them to their next class, make them finish an assignment during lunch, or just give them a pep talk during lunch, try to be that supportive force that keeps them on track these last few weeks.

For more ideas on ending the year strong, check out Maximizing the Month of May and Closing Out vs. Fading Out.

Previously published May 8, 2014. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *