EDITOR'S NOTE: The following piece was posted to the Teachers.Net Chatboard in 1998 by veteran Candian teacher "Sweathog." In response to a plea for help from a beginning teacher, Sweathog dispensed advice on classroom discipline that has been passed along over and over, and came to be cherished here on Teachers.Net. Sadly, the colorful Sweathog has passed, but his wisdom lives on.Post: WHAT SHOULD I DO?
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Posted by Shoy on 1/28/98
As a first year teacher, I am having a terrible year! My
students won't listen to me, they are very talkative, and
they love to back talk. I teach third grade. I have
implemented several programs, but I have had not had a lot
of long term success.
I am really struggling to keep my cool. I am getting upset
easier now and I am extremely frustrated. For two weeks we
did really well, but now we are having some problems.
I am really having a rough week, what should I do?
Post: Response to Shoy 's question --- "What Should I Do?"
Posted by Sweathog on 1/30/98
I posted a response to your question 2 days ago but it
didn't record because Sweathog used a few choice words that
wouldn't let it pass through. Therefore, because I'm a one
finger typist, here I am spending another 3 hours typing
out this response. LOL That's my penance, I guess! That's
all right! I'm only too happy to offer suggestions that
might help you out.
Incidentally, your original post is about 2 miles down so I
thought I would post my response here at the top. Sweathog
is a retired teacher. (35 years) Maybe, I've been put out
to pasture but I've still got something to offer to young
teachers. Shoy --- been there! done that!
Well, let's get at it. Shoy, in your own words, you say you
are having a "terrible" year. Yes, Shoy, you are and it
will only become worse! However, the year is still
salvageable but you've got to do certain things! If you
don't, you will become even more frustrated, go home in
tears more often, start "blowing your cool" more and more,
and, soon, the principal will be camping out in your
classroom. WHY? --- to determine if you will be retained
next year! Hopefully, if your principal is worth his or her
salt, he will take you under his wing!
Here is the situation as it stands right now!!! Shoy, very
little effective teaching and learning is occurring in your
classroom right now. In the early months of this, your
first year, you were getting good results. We're now at mid-
year and your students have "got you figured out". They
have clued in to what they can get away with! --- almost
anything!!! Shoy, you could work 16 hours a day preparing
lessons and still, everything would seem futile. You've got
so much you want to give but the little folks just aren't
receptive. They are not attentive and many of your hours of
lesson preparation seem to go down the drain. The students
are unhappy! You're unhappy! They feel it! You feel it! You
go home every night totally exhausted and feeling VERY
depressed. You've still got lots of love in your heart for
your students, but that's diminishing quickly, especially
with the serious discipline cases. Soon, parental
complaints will begin and you will have those additional
headaches with which to contend. Shoy, as I mentioned
previously, I've been there! done that! MANY teachers
have!!!!!!! Perhaps, some right here on this board.
Shoy, you've got ALMOST all the traits and skills necessary
to become a great teacher!!! Please notice the "almost".
Every good teacher MUST develop "effective classroom
management skills." Without them, a teacher hasn't got a
chance! Today's kids don't walk into a classroom and behave
automatically. They must become convinced that behaving is
much better than misbehaving. Been there! Done that! I'm
ashamed to say that Sweathog was one of the worst behaved
students in the history of Wallaceburg District Secondary
School. Hence, Sweathog's name!!! I raised h--- in every
classroom except in Miss Quigley's Latin class. The lady
was superb! She knew EXACTLY how to handle a student like
me. In fact, Shoy, the remainder of this message to you is
dedicated to the BEST teacher I ever had. ---- NORA QUIGLEY
--- May God bless her! As she looks down from heaven, I
hope old Nora never finds out I became a teacher! Well,
really yes, I do! Miss Quigley is the only high school
teacher who never gave up on me!
It's very easy for teachers to say that today's kids are
wild and spoiled and out of control, and impossible to
teach. Hey, I was that way in the 1950's. It's just that
there are more Sweathogs out there than ever before. It is
true that today's kids are MUCH TOUGHER to manage. However,
they are still MANAGEABLE!!!!
Shoy, you are the ADULT (and the surrogate parent) in your
classroom, and the only one! How goes you, goes the class!
Give the kids an inch, and they'll try to take a mile!
Don't let them take a mile, only an inch!
For JUST A WHILE, throw out your programs, and much of what
you learned in teacher training. Good stuff but they're not
working for you right now. Forget "group work" for awhile.
JUST FOR AWHILE, forget about varied learning styles and
dividing the kids into bluebirds, canaries, robins, and
dodo birds( isn't that awful?) or whatever, and according
to rates of learning. Shoy, for JUST A WHILE, have ALL your
students working as ONE group in EVERY SUBJECT. In other
words, ALL the kids will learn the SAME stuff at the SAME
time. Yes, just like your university class!!!! One prof
teaching to ALL! Geez, Sweathog! You sound like a heretic!
Yup! --- and I've been called worse! Shoy, it's mandatory
that YOU SEIZE CONTROL of the learning environment!!!!
Right now, your students are running the classroom. They
are controlling the learning environment. They do what they
want, when they want, if they want.
For JUST A WHILE, you MUST become a kind, esteem building
DICTATOR just like NORA QUIGLEY. Shoy, YOU will determine
WHAT the kids do WHEN you want it done and HOW neatly and
May I suggest that you initiate your palace coup on a
Monday? NEVER ANY OTHER DAY, but Monday. The kids have come
back after a 2 day hiatus and worn out from the weekend.
You nail them before they have a chance to recuperate! It
will set the tone for the whole week!
This is a good time to mention that Sweathog is NOT
suggesting that you transform into a shouting, screaming
maniac scaring and threatening the heck out of your
students. God forbid!!! We've got enough of those around
now. Perhaps, they should seek other kinds of work! ----
Shoy, This coming Monday is a good day to start your
Bell rings!!! DON'T let anyone into the classroom! Have
the students line up in the hallway OUTSIDE the classroom.
Make sure you've got a well behaved SLOW WALKER at the
front of the line. Quieten the kids down as much as
possible. With a smiling face and a cheerful voice, "GOOD
MORNING, boys and girls!! I missed you! I'm glad you're
back!" In a forceful, yet controlled voice, tell the kids
to walk SLOWLY to THEIR DESKS, and NOWHERE ELSE. (Winter
coats and boots right to their desks with them). To your
desks, please! Sally, to your desk, please! Yes, I know!
But first, TO YOUR DESK, PLEASE! Thank you, SALLY! (Smile).
Once each kid is seated, "STAY in your seats, please! NO
WANDERING AROUND! YOU MUST STAY in YOUR SEATS! ( always a
forceful CONTROLLED voice, NEVER ANGRY!) No, John! I did
not give you permission to sharpen your pencil. Sit down,
please! You'll have time to do that, later! Thank you,
John! ( SMILE, and make sure John sees you smile!)
Suzy! No talking, please! Thank you, Suzy! By the way, I
LOVE the way you have your hair done! VERY nice! (smile)
No, Fred! I SAID NO GETTING OUT OF YOUR SEAT! Thank you!
Shoy, pick out the worst behaved kid in the class.
Manufacture a compliment, if necessary! I meant to tell
you. Last week, on recess duty, I was watching you play
soccer. Young man, you ARE GOOD!! Where did you learn that
stuff? I'm glad you're in my classroom!
Shoy! Your students will notice the change! (On the
previous Friday, you were sullen and at a loss, and
questioning your decision to become a teacher). Now, on
Monday, your students don't know what the heck is going on
but they do know they LIKE it. The FIRST day using the NEW
you is super important. The kids will try to REVERT to
their OLD habits. YOU MUST STIFLE THEM IMMEDIATELY!!! or
this becomes an exercise in futility!
Shoy, I don't know your school's morning routine. Chances
are that some old geezer comes on the intercom with
announcements like the upcoming bake sale to raise money
for basketball valve needles, and would students please
refrain from running on the school roof during school
hours. Sure, I'm being facetious but you get the drift!
It's imperative that the kids be totally silent during the
morning announcements. YOUR control of the students MUST be
MAINTAINED even with outside interruptions!
Right after the principal's announcements, I suggest you do
the following: TRAIN the students to settle down by using
a "hand signal". It sure beats screaming! Many teachers use
it but not to great effect! Shoy, use it as if you're a
very spoiled little brat with the only game around and the
other kids can't play until they settle down! SERIOUSLY!
You OWN THE GAME! YOU CALL THE SHOTS! or I'll take my game
home! Then, you'll be sorry! Teaching is ACTING!! Plain
and simple! --- Boys and girls, when I raise my arm
straight up like this, that means EVERYTHING STOPS!!! No
more talking, stop walking, YOU FREEZE!, pencils down,
hands together, ALL EYES ON ME! and I mean it!! If your
neighbors don't see me, say "SHHH! to them or you raise
your hand, too. It means that I've got to tell you
something very important! Let's try it out! Boys and girls,
go ahead and whisper softly to each other. (Shoy, give them
10 seconds) Raise your hand above your head. What's this
mean? Let's do this again until we get it right! (THEN DO
IT AGAIN and AGAIN, Shoy, until it's right!) YOU MUST
DEMAND 100% ATTENTIVENESS! and cooperation! --- or you're
done like a dinner! ---- "The art lesson WILL NOT
CONTINUE until everyone DOES EXACTLY what I say." --- and,
believe it or not, the following works: --- "I won't let
you do any more math questions until you do the following:
--------". --- works even with grade 8's. Go figure! I
don't why it works on grade 8's but it does! Heck, it even
worked in Nora Quigley's grade 12 Latin class on Sweathog!
Shoy! If you 're accepting of Sweathog's suggestions so
far, you're about to teach the MOST IMPORTANT lessons you
will EVER teach!!!
FOR JUST MONDAY and the first few days next week, FORGET
the timetable! FORGET the curriculum! Choose YOUR favorite
topics in your FAVORITE school subjects, but not art or
other noise inducing subjects. It's ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE
that you make THIS lesson the FIRST lesson you teach on
If it's noisy (even slightly), use the hand signal!!!!! DO
NOT START THE LESSON UNTIL YOU HAVE 100% ATTENTIVENESS!!
TELL, not ask, TELL the students to clear their desk tops
-- no pencils, no rulers, no erasers, no books, no paper,
etc. NO NOTHING! You've got to get rid of the "toys". The
ONLY things on the desk tops are clasped hands and 2
elbows. Shoy! That's crucial! Don't start your FIRST lesson
until EVERY student complies. You're using peer pressure in
reverse. The "usually bad behavior" kids feel obliged to
comply because, now, most of their peers are complying. If
some kids "unclasp" their hands, clasp your hands and STAND
RIGHT in FRONT of them. Don't say a word, Shoy! Just SMILE!
---- and show them YOUR clasped hands!
Shoy, once you have 100% attentiveness, start your lesson!
Make it a BANG UP lesson!!! The students must become
CONVINCED that when Miss Shoy talks, and if WE listen, then
During the instructional part of the lesson, if a kid turns
around to whisper or whatever, (STOP TALKING), and announce
most officiously, "I will not continue the lesson until we
have FULL ATTENTION! You have no right to interfere with my
lesson." (Shoy, DON'T SMILE! but make a FROWN right at the
kid.) Soon, the kids realize that the old bag means
business! Stop talking EVERY time there's even the
slightest variance from paying attention by any kid. Don't
say a word. Just stare and frown slightly.
When you finish up the instructional part, it's time for
seatwork related to the lesson. This is a crucial time!
While the seatwork is being distributed, there is a
tendency for friendly chatting to start up. Shoy, STIFLE it
IMMEDIATELY! No noise, please! Thank you! I'm sorry, boys
and girls, no one said to take out your pencils, yet! PUT
them away, please. Thank you! Once every student has the
seatwork on his or her desk, TELL them to take out their
pencils, rulers, and erasers. (even if it's 5 seconds AFTER
you told them to put them back in their desks). Yes, John!
NOW, you may sharpen your pencil! NO, George, wait until
John has finished. Then, YOU may leave your seat to go
sharpen your pencil. (SMILE) ---- but, George, not until
then!! O.K., big guy! ("handsome dude" works wonders
Shoy! CIRCULATE! REMEDIATE! and PAY COMPLIMENTS (tons of
them every day and you don't even have to smile each time
you pay a compliment). Don't miss a kid! Nail each kid with
a compliment at least once sometime during the day. VITAL!!!
If you overlook a kid, nail him the first thing the next
morning. "Teddy, I like your jacket! Nice color. Warm, I
Mary, remember to dot your "i's". Hey, nice "p's"! Emmy,
remember your loops in "e". See that "e". Make the others
just like that one. Hey, Joey! You remembered to cross your
"t's". I'm so proud of you, young man! In fact, boys and
girls, please put your pencils down. (Wait until everyone
has complied). I'm so happy with you guys and gals! Did you
know that all of you are better printers than I was when I
was in grade 3? O.K. gang, back to work! Isaiah! You're
getting better every day! How's your mom? Is she home from
the hospital, yet? Tell her I said "Hi!" Mary Gaye! WOW! I
hope the next sentence is just as neat as that first one.
Janey! You make the best "a's " I've seen in a long time.
No, boys and girls, stay in your seats! Janey, bring your
page around and show everyone. Show them how you do it.
Hughie! You keep surprising me every day but watch your
periods and commas, big guy!
Shoy! Stay in this vein for at least a couple of weeks! You
will have gained TOTAL control of the classroom, gained the
kids' confidence in their teacher, let the kids know in no
uncertain terms that you will not tolerate any more
nonsense, raised their self esteem with your positive
criticisms, and convinced the students that, "Hey, school
ain't that bad! I really like Miss Shoy! She makes us
When you have created a happy, caring, positive learning
environment, you can get back to "group" work! But, Shoy,
always be ready to revert back to being a "kind dictator"
for as long as it takes!
Shoy! Our Creator has called you to teach! Hang in there!
Teaching CAN be a most wonderful human experience!
Have a great Monday!