Consequences. Do they work?

I have shared that I am a special education teacher. I teach math, language arts, and science in a self-contained resource classroom. I work with a wide range of special learners who at times do not make the correct choices. What happens when students don’t make the “correct” choices? They get a consequence! But what really is a consequence? When you check the dictionary, consequence has two different meanings:

  1. a result or effect of an action or condition
  2. importance or relevance

So essentially,  one could say, “that consequence was of no consequence!” Insert hysterical laugh track.  But seriously, how many times have you felt that a consequence actually worked? Whether as an educator or a parent, the use of consequences can be like navigating a minefield. Step too far to the right or left and it can end tragically. You know what that looks like; the student who never speaks to you again or the sullen teen in your home who does everything in their power to do the opposite of what you ask. 

Guilty as charged!!!!

I saw this meme and immediately thought to myself, guilty as charged. Yes, I too have complained about that student who is always into something. Of course, taking away his recess and replacing it with detention time after time after time will definitely make him think twice about his “choices.” Or suspending him for two days each time he does XYZ is going to make him stop (insert behavior of your choice). In my opinion, if a student constantly struggles to regulate their behavior or adhere to classroom expectations they will begin to act out in order to get a consequence. Especially if that consequence gets them out of class or school, situations or environments that may make them uncomfortable. Making the consequence something that is desired.

Now don’t get me wrong. I feel that consequences can work for some students but not all. As I often like to say at work, we have to get creative. Take the example of Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore. Instead of sending students to detention or the principal’s office, the school created a Mindful Moment room, where students are asked to use calming strategies like deep breathing or mediation. Once they are calm they are encouraged to talk about what happened. Read more about this by clicking here.

If you don’t have the option to start a Mindful Moment room, what can you do?! Check back next week as I discuss how to avoid getting to the point of constant consequences.