Teacher focused Student focused
What is it? Punishment An opportunity to teach behavior to a student currently deficient and not meeting expectations
Who “does” it? Administration All educators who come in contact with the student
What is the foundation of it? Rules Relationships
Behavior is… a choice, therefore punishment serves as encouragement/deterrent to choose wisely learned, therefore must be taught, modeled, re-taught, and supported
Teacher becomes frustrated when… administration does not impose punishment and/or immediately correct the behavior student learning curve takes more time and resources than anticipated

What is it? Pretty straight forward. Teacher focused educators believe discipline is about punishing kids for their behavior, and removing them from class makes it easier to teach their content.
Student focused educators believe their jobs are to teach kids (Math, Art, Science, Spanish, Behavior, etc.), and that is challenging to do if students are removed from their instruction.

Who “does” it? Teacher focused educators believe discipline is handled by administration. Therefore, anytime it’s needed, teacher focused educators send kids to the office.
Student focused educators believe they–and everybody who comes in contact with kids (other teachers, administration, extracurricular supervisors, custodians, office staff, lunch crew, bus drivers, etc.)–have a role in supporting positive student behavior. Therefore, when it’s needed, they work collaboratively with colleagues to provide support, redirection, or guidance as appropriate.

What is the foundation of it? Teacher focused educators are committed to rules. They work diligently to protect them, and may become adversarial with those who break them. Teacher focused educators believe that following rules makes it easiest for them to teach their content.
Student focused educators are committed to kids. They reach out to those who exhibit a need for support to meet expectations, and tend to make positive connections with them. Student focused educators believe their best leverage in student learning is a strong relationship.

Behavior is… Teacher focused educators believe behavior is a choice. Rules make clear what the expectations are, and punishments will achieve rule obedience.
Student focused educators believe behavior is learned, just like academic skills. And just like academic skills, proficient behavior can take time, practice, and supportive teaching.

Teacher becomes frustrated when… Teacher focused educators feel punishments should match how upset they were with the student’s infraction, and that the behavior should be immediately corrected by administration. If either of these do not occur, they may feel unsupported.
Student focused educators are dedicated to student learning, and may feel emotional exhaustion from a commitment to students with high behavioral needs.


Scenario: Today we’re working on quadratic equations. A student doesn’t correctly complete them. I see him struggling, and I give him an ultimatum: “Get this next problem right or I’ll send you to the office.” He gets the next problem wrong, and I feel grossly disrespected and cite the student for insubordination. I send the student to the office, and am fully expecting at least a couple day hiatus from my classroom for him. When he returns, I expect him to be proficient in quadratic equations. If these do not occur, I will not feel my administration is supportive of me.

In my entire career, I have never witnessed or heard of this experience as it pertains to academic skills; however, this can be a pretty typical response when it comes to behavior. In the above scenario, we tend to pull kids closer to us, offering help before or after school, or during lunch periods. We reach out to peers for different ways to expose the material of quadratic equations. We find various resources and implement different strategies. We monitor progress, expecting incremental improvements over time and set benchmarks. We bond with the student beyond the general classroom setting. Yet, when it comes to behavior, we tend to push students away, exiling them and expecting immediate proficiency upon return to us.

If we view our jobs as teaching quadratic equations, that will most easily be done by removing the kids who don’t already know them or won’t catch on quickly. But if we view our jobs as teaching kids quadratic equations, that can only be done with kids in front of us. We don’t send kids to a magic room in the office that teaches quadratic equations to full proficiency by holding them there for a couple days. We dig deeper, work collaboratively with colleagues, and create valuable connections with our kids beyond the universal setting, striving toward a shared goal. The same should hold true for behavior.



About Sam LeDeaux

Administrator. Teacher. Learner. Coach. Chicago metro area. Passionate about kids, learning, and education. Follow me on twitter @sledeaux84 and at ConnectedPrincipals.com.

2 responses »

  1. IRonMan says:

    Mr. LeDeaux, you have made many good points. However, the issue that I would like to underline is that it appears that your piece is advocating adding “behavior” to the child’s curriculum as a course to be taught along with Language Arts, Math or Science. That is draining for a teacher. An assistant principal may have the privilege to get involved in a student’s life in a nice way, and there again, as you yourself have found out, it is very difficult to keep up. We cannot play a parental role, as teachers, when we are overrun with IEP’s and ISP’s and with the responsibility of teaching those who do want to learn and would restrain their bad behavior in favor of the learning benefit. It does occasionally get absolutely frustrating when one student will spoil it for all others. While a teacher can pour himself (or herself) into a student occasionally, It is almost foolish to think one can curb bad behavior in a classroom by teaching behavior along with the said subject. Having said this, I am also acutely aware that some bad behavior stems from a lack of social skills and from immaturity. In such cases, as a teacher, I make it my duty to mentor my students so that they could improve on their social skills, and I use paternal patience to allow them to mature. However, I have been in situations where a stubborn student needed to be removed from the environment in order for me to help the others succeed. Strangely enough, those individuals I forcibly removed from my classroom have come back to me months later to thank me for standing my ground. When they finally matured, they realized that I did what I did out of love also, and not of personal frustration alone. Thanks for sharing.


    • Sam LeDeaux says:

      Thank you for reading and for the response, IRonMan! Valid and legitimate points!

      It is accurate to say I firmly believe in teaching behavior to our kids; however, not as a class. It is done so with the intentions of your actions seamlessly integrated into the presentation of your instruction. Every look, face, smile, gesture matters in teaching behavior. As you’ve mentioned, standing ground of expectations and putting students first is a priority. My point is simply that putting academic content ahead of students as learners and people may yield less production and progress than vice versa. There are limitations and frustrations with both ways; however, in my experience, one tends to lead to passion overcoming those limitations and frustrations, while the other tends to lead to the opposite.


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