If a student is being disruptive OR even if they are just not doing the work at a high standard, do the following:
1. Make your expectations clear to the class up front. State these in positive terms. For example, “Class, I expect that you are respectful during instruction.” (Then teach students what that looks like.) “That means when I’m taking, you are quiet and listening. I will know you’re listening if I can see your eyes and if when I ask for responses, you follow directions and respond appropriately.”
2. If the class is not following your expectations, reteach them and then describe what steps you’ll take for those who don’t comply. Be sure to use language that “others” those who break the rules. For example, “If anyone chooses not to follow directions, then they will...” instead of “If YOU can’t follow directions, then YOU...”
3. If a single student doesn’t follow expectations, privately communicate your concern to the student. If you are teaching virtually, you can simply ask the student to stay at the end of the session. That way you can speak to them one-on-one. Here is an example of how you can word this: “Kelli, it looks like you’re having trouble staying on task today. Is there something you need help with?” (Offer help and communicate with empathy first.) “Remember that you are expected to follow the rules of this class and do your work. Is that understood?” (Clearly restate expectations.) “If this happens again, I will have to notify your parent/guardian. Do you understand?” (Explain next steps.)
4. Immediately document this interaction including what happened and when, what you said, and what the student said. Include any action that you took at the time and what you said the next steps would be. Do not wait to write these things down. You will forget!
5. If the same student has another infraction, repeat step 3 except instead of warning them about a parent contact, go ahead and make one with the student present if you are able. This will signal to the student that you are holding them to high expectations and that you mean what you say. It is likely that they will try to talk you out of taking this step. They might even beg you not to call. Don’t take the bait. It is your responsibility as their teacher to communicate the child’s progress or lack thereof to the parent/guardian. (By the way, if you’re teaching virtually, you can just tell the student to get their parent because they may be home.)
6. When contacting a parent, always begin with the positive. Here is a sample script of what to say: “Hi Mr./Ms. X. This is ... , your child’s music teacher. I wanted you to know that I’m so glad Kelli is in my class. She is talented/ smart/ joyful... (find something both positive and truthful here), “... but unfortunately, there have been 2 incidents in class where Kelli ...” (then describe in concrete terms what happened.) “I wondered if you and I could work together to help Kelli get back on track so that she’s successful in class.” (If the issue is negatively impacting the student’s grade, be sure to say that as well.) Remember to keep emotion out of it. State the facts and ask to work together toward a solution.
Remember, students will rise to your expectations and they can smell empty threats. Communicate clearly and always follow through. Once students know that you mean what you say, you will have FAR fewer infractions and a much higher level of participation.