You probably love teaching–inspiring students, opening their minds, imparting knowledge–but there always seems to be that discipline issue hovering over your teaching day, causing you stress and anxiety, and creating a nagging gloomy backdrop to your experience as a teacher.

Maybe it’s one disrespectful student in Period 2. Or a group of them in period 4. Or your entire day is riddled with various discipline issues.

You’ve tried talking to the student, calling his or her parents, sending them to the counselor–all the traditional non-effective steps–but the poor behavior persists.

Are you destined to endure this student for the year? Do you have several students you wish you could just snap your fingers together to get to behave?

Guess what–they will be there next semester, too–the faces will change but the behavior problems will pop up again. If you want a long teaching career you must get these issues handled–fast.

There is actually a very simple way you can shape anyone’s behavior, from the smallest child’s to a world leader to your own–and that is to get leverage with that person.

To get leverage with a person you must have power over something they care about. Different people care about different things, so you cannot apply the same leverage to everyone in every situation.

For example–if I were to offer you $3000 to take off work tomorrow, you would probably be tempted. I would have leverage. If I were to make Donald Trump the same offer, he would scoff–that would not be enough to gain leverage with him. Now, if I had the power to muss up his hair, it might be a different issue.

If we apply this concept to student behavior, you will quickly realize that the reason some of your consequences have not been working is that they have no real leverage with the student.

If you tell a student to be quiet, but it does not bother them to hear your voice yet again, you do not have leverage. If you tell a student they will fail the course, but they do not care about their grades, you do not have leverage. If you suspend a student, but they do not mind missing school, you do not have leverage. Do not mistake what you think is leverage with what is real leverage with the student.

You need to find what the student values and use that as leverage. This could get very complicated, with you spending your evenings poring over psychology books to find what drives each student’s behavior.

Luckily, there is one thing that every student universally values–and that is their time.

My students know that 15 minutes after school awaits them any time they break one of my rules or class procedures. That 15 minutes is important to them–they care about losing that time–it gives me leverage, and they all behave well. Pretty easy, right?

Of course, the next logical question is “What if they don’t come?”

There is also a rather easy solution to that, but for now realize that you must find real leverage with the students, not a habitual consequence that they do not care about.

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