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Bass Bucks: A Non-Confrontational Discipline Plan as Part of a Full Classroom Management Strategy

NOTE: Immediately enlist the assistance of an administrator in cases of highly disruptive, violent, or threatening behavior.

When you send a student to the office for a classroom disruption, you whittle away at the authority and control that you must have in order to instruct. This is not unlike a parent or guardian who threatens to let the other parent know about misbehavior when he or she gets home. Teachers unwittingly weaken their own credibility in the classroom by making too many referrals to the office, thus signaling to some students that an opportunity is prime for disruption.

Discipline planning and full classroom management issues continue to elude teacher preparation programs. However, overall poor classroom management disrupts your ability to teach and helps to ensure student failure. In the least, poor classroom management can translate into lowered achievement. At the extreme, it can create heated tempers and violence. It is important to learn de-escalation techniques in order to prevent a frustrated student from becoming an angry one. It is imperative that your discipline plan is one with which you feel comfortable in administering, complements your teaching style, and that is incorporated as part of a full classroom management strategy, not a separate entity. A good classroom management plan will ensure that your discipline procedures are handled equitably among students.


Any parent of a teenager understands the importance of understanding what fire is worth putting out. With 30 different personalities in a classroom, there will be disagreements and misunderstandings. Students do not always understand how to eloquently express their needs and ideas. This can cause frustration. However, is this necessarily a discipline issue or a communication difficulty? You must assess the nature of disruptions and their gravity. Vet infractions to determine what is worthy of a disruption of the entire class or a private chat a little later during working time or after class. Everything doesn't have to bring your instruction to a halt. Have a clear understanding of what type of behavior you feel comfortable handling in the classroom and what warrants a trip to the office.


Harry Wong made a statement that changed the way I looked at the responsibility for learning in the classroom: "Whoever is doing the work is doing the learning." (The First Days of School, 1998). Teachers want students to be successful. However, no matter how much heart and time we pour into some students, they will choose to fail. It's heart wrenching. Harry Wong allowed me to evolve into more of a coach who was highly involved during practice, but stepped back during game play. I used to tell my students, "I have an education; I'm here to help you get yours." This made it clear that the learning to be done in the classroom was their responsibility. If you place the responsibility for learning on the student, there should be very little that frustrates or angers you in the classroom. You have given them the expectations. If they choose not to be active players in the educational process, then they must suffer the natural consequence: loss of credit.

Students who live in homes that do not place value on education will struggle the greatest in the classroom. It is important to be prepared to explain the benefit of learning in terms of application, life enrichment, and relevance. Grades are not real motivators for educational success. Talk in terms of life improvement and skill development instead of how much material has to be covered. You will truly see a difference in the numbers of students who want to engage in their learning.


The discipline plan I used in the classroom was "hidden" to my students. It did not appear to be "punishment" nor was it meant to. It was designed to model real world expectations, responsibilities, and consequences. Work ethic was rewarded accordingly. I developed it while serving as a vocational instructor in order to carry the workplace theme into my academic classroom. I used it, with great success, for several years and my classes were often filled with some of the most challenging students in school. It can easily be tailored to fit any class genre or grade level, and the benefits include lowered teacher stress, less time involved in handling discipline problems, higher student achievement, and a written record of behavior in the event office or parental referral is necessary. I only referred a handful of students to the office during the course of my last 5 years in the high school setting. As a result, more time was spent on instruction and I lowered my blood pressure. Yes, I even used it with my own two children at home. it is based on a philosophy that is familiar to all -- a good day's pay for a good day's work.


All students understand the idea that pay is associated with work. My plan involves the creation of a "workplace" in your classroom where students earn pay for arriving on time, remaining engaged with their studies during class time, refraining from disrupting others, and all other aspects of the class. When infractions occur, pay is docked or students can be laid off, thus losing pay for the day. When the course ended, the students are allowed to use their earnings in a unique way. I sought donations from local employers in order to hold an auction at the end of the year. Businesses donated great gifts for the students to bid on. There was something for everyone -- baseball tickets, tools, gift cards, luggage, microwave ovens, movie tickets. Everyone was able to purchase and bid on something but the real worker bees got a chance to take home some pretty exciting items.


Be proactive. Learn how to put all of the information needed for class in writing and have it all available when students arrive. One highly effective aspect of the online learning classroom is the availability of needed materials in order to complete assignments at any time. Everything the online student needs, for the entire term, is ready and available on day one. Once I began this practice in my onground class, the students began to be the ones who were doing most of the work during class. I was then available to answer clarifying questions or evaluate work as it came in. I stopped grading at home because while the students worked, I worked. Unwittingly, I had an early version of an inverted classroom. Ultimately, I placed all of the learning materials online so they had access to their work anytime they had an internet connection. Back in 2002, students thought it was pretty exciting to turn in work online. My readiness helped to encourage their engagement.


Wong discusses the idea of determining the difference between rules and procedures as integral to vetting infractions (2012). You cannot enforce more than three to five rules. You can, however, teach your students to follow certain procedures. If they don't follow the procedure a natural consequence applies. For example, if a student does not remember to return homework, the grade is a "0"...or recess is missed to complete homework...or something else that will be highly uncomfortable. Even more desirable are procedures that highlight positive outcomes - "when a student completes homework, he/she receives a star. Ten stars will earn an extra 10 minutes at recess" (Wong, 2012). Three simple rules can cover just about everything: A. Respect the property, personal space, personality and spirit of everyone. B. Come to class prepared to work. C. Refrain from using inappropriate behavior and language.


Now the fun begins. I created an "Employee Handbook" for Marsha Bass Industries. Employers give new hires employee manuals so they understand all the procedures necessary for success on the job. On the first day, we spent time going over the Handbook to answer questions or make further clarifications. An Employee Handbook provides students with autonomy. In the event of my absence, students should be able to continue with production. This handbook is also a great way to prepare a Guest Instructor during a teacher absence.


I used "Bass Bucks." Based on the Monopoly money idea, I took pictures of the students and created bills of different denominations. Those who weren't on currency were used in other materials. Everyone is a part of the company. I recall one student who had a billfold he kept his Bass Bucks in. Once "money" became attached to the learning, it was all relevant. Discipline (loss of Bass Bucks) was a natural consequence for infractions. Put thought into your currency system; it is one of the most endearing parts of the entire process.


My students were given the assignment to review the job descriptions, working conditions, and average starting pay for a desired career field on the US Bureau of Labor Standards Occupational Outlook Handbook website. Students were then assigned a starting pay based on their findings. If they did not complete this task, they began with minimum wage.

Then using your list of classroom procedures as a guide, assign deductions in pay for infractions. For example:

Workers were considered tardy if they were not seated with all collected learning materials at the time of the class bell. Just like in the workplace, worker pay is docked for reporting late. Repeat incidents would result in a lay-off where pay is missed for an entire day.


This is a practice that not only keeps classroom disruption to a minimum, but allows the teacher to gently re-direct the student's focus without verbal or hostile confrontation and creates a record of written documentation of behavioral problems. Each noted incident should result in a deduction of classroom production credit in someway (thus relating their classroom behavior to their course grade). Scholarship and attitude is important to the learning process. Provide an area that requires the signature of the student. In the event of an office or parent referral, you have the signed documentation that supports the fact that this has been discussed with the student and he/she is aware of the concern. It takes real concentration, however, to use this plan because it is easy to get diverted away from the it when you want to handle problems quickly. I remember being thankful for the opportunity to calm myself while completing the form with shaky handwriting one day. Quickly isn't always the most effective way to deal with students - especially teenagers.

My reprimand system also used workplace language: Written Employee Reprimand; Lay-Off Notification; Discharge or Termination with Review; A Discharge or Termination without Review. This means that my students have basically 2 attempts at correcting their behavior before losing the opportunity to remain "in my employ."

Be prepared—have the discipline forms you will use in class completed in advance. The consequences for each infraction should be clearly indicated and a signature and date line for the student to complete.


After observing the student behavior, simply write a few notes on the reprimand (or lay-off) form indicating the observation. Use this as a tool to re-direct the student. Write words of encouragement to get them to focus on the activity such as:

X Non-productivity
You are usually very busy and productive in class. I have observed your lack of completing any of the assigned tasks today. May I answer any questions for you? Please be careful. You don't want to get behind in this assignment. If there is something you don't quite understand, let me know.

The above observation documents the behavior but encourages the student to re-engage in a non-threatening way. It also provides an opportunity for the student to consult you about something they may not understand.

As highlighted in the Employee Handbook, a student moves to a “lay-off” or removal,” from the work environment accompanied with an appropriate “pink slip” (move the student to an isolated area designated as the unemployment area). Engage the student in a behavioral modification assignment with the understanding that they cannot return to the work environment until the paperwork is completed (as you know, there is a great deal of paperwork to be completed when one moves to the unemployment system). The lay-off period should always include the completion of some form of behavior modification alternate assignment. Having a student sit idly encourages boredom and more attempts to gain attention.


Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens is a valuable resource as far as providing students with the opportunity to take a look at their behavior and the habits they must adopt in order to be successful. Make sure that the students understand that any lay-off requires the completion of unemployment paperwork AND that the paperwork must be completed before they can return to the production line. Whether or not you assign some form of credit to the unemployment assignment is at your discretion. As long as the policy has been clearly explained and the students understand what procedures apply, they have little to complain about. Some will, but do not stray from the path. No one likes to be reprimanded for their behavior. Once they see you will enforce the guidelines, they will be a little more careful about following them in the future.

THIRD INCIDENT OR “Termination with Review."

This means it is time to separate the student from the environment for a period of time. Understand the legal rights in your state as an educator to remove a student from the classroom environment for a period of time. Now, this should not be done just to get someone out of your way. It should provide the student with an opportunity to see that you are serious about changing unwanted behavior, preserving the learning environment for all and that inappropriate behavior can and will adversely affect academic progress. It is very important to involve the student’s parents/guardians at this point. Hopefully you have already created a rapport with your parent body through periodic newsletters, notes home highlighting GOOD behavior, and an open invitation to your classroom. Students hope little contact will be made between school and home. Many parents want to help their children—but aren’t quite sure how. Yes, as the educator you are responsible for educating your parents as well.


It is time to call a team meeting of all stakeholders. The focus is to make a plan for moving forward. There are many ways to achieve this -- it could result in the creation of a behavior contract, for example. In addition, present copies of the reprimand and lay-off forms as evidentiary proof of the behavior observed in class and the student's own acknowledgement of that behavior. Allow parents to see what steps have already been taken to address unwanted behavior. It should be made clear that continuing the behavior puts the student's ability to pass the course in grave jeopardy.

As you conduct the team meeting, I encourage you to employ Glasser's WDEP plan or Choice Theory (see below). Remember - the idea is to get the student to take ownership in his/her education.

William Glasser's *Choice Theory (WDEP) line of questioning to use with students during conferences:

A. What is it that you WANT?
B. What are you DOING to achieve that goal?
C. Is what you're doing working (EVALUATION).
D. What do you PLAN to do about it now?

These questions provide the opportunity to reflect on misbehavior and its poor results.


After you have taken the appropriate steps to handle the unwanted behavior in the classroom, then administration intervention is needed—and since you have documented each incident, the administration has the background information and necessary documentation it needs in order to remove a student from the environment. Send the student to the office with appropriate referral form and attach all written reprimands and lay-off slips. This makes it very easy for the administration and the student's parents to see that you have done everything that you could possibly do to try to deal with the unwanted behavior in the classroom. This also provides documentation of the fact that the student was aware of all previous attempts and continued to disrupt the classroom.

From my experience as an administrator, I have had the opportunity to learn about the real limitations that are placed on the administration when it comes to dealing with discipline. Schools still largely employ the basic detention, suspension, and expulsion forms of consequence. Of course, you should immediately enlist the assistance of an administrator in cases of highly disruptive, violent, or threatening behavior. But YOU can document a student who refuses to participate in class out the door for a period of time.

In each case, try not to entertain an argument or discussion about the incident. Simply tell the student you will be more than happy to discuss the situation at break or after class, but that he/she simply has too much work to do to get involved in a lengthy discussion at this time. This is a teaching moment. Gently remind the student that everybody makes an inappropriate choice at times and that you will discuss the matter at length a little later. If you anticipate this dialogue taking place, communicate your willingness to speak about the situation on the written notification.


You know how you feel when an administrator advises he/she would like to speak to you in the office about something. Don’t expect all of this to be taken with a smile. If you have made your discipline plan clear and put it in writing, then remind the student that he/she knew what the guidelines were, and stand firm when assigning a consequence. Most importantly, enforce your policy objectively and equitably. Consistency will send the right message that you are dedicated to preserving the learning environment.

Discipline is one of the most difficult aspects of classroom teaching but it can be the most effective in teaching students "life" lessons. A discipline plan must be clearly planned and executed. We spend so much time on other aspects of our classroom management but haphazardly deal with disruptions. Discipline planning can only be effective when it is seamlessly integrated into a solid full classroom management strategy.

Much success!

I am happy to provide these stress-free suggestions for making your journey to success one to enjoy!

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~Professor Marsha

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