One of the most difficult yet vital things you must do for students is to hold them accountable for their words and actions.
In some cases, if you don’t hold them accountable, no one else will.
Sometimes holding students accountable hurts (them). Learning is sometimes an emotional process. I’ve been sneered at, yelled at, seen an abundance of tears and I’ve been called a variety of colorful names all in the name of setting high expectations for students and holding them accountable for their words and actions.
None of that bothers me. It used to, but I now take nothing personally when it comes to the reactions of the students in my care. I understand they are young, still learning and need an adult who is willing to build a relationship, teach them, hand out disciplinary consequences, if necessary and love them.
The most important part of your job is to build relationships with your students. A student is not going to listen or learn unless there is a valid, reciprocated relationship between the two of you. They need to feel they are an important part of the community (classroom) and that this community has boundaries. Boundaries create safety.
In order to create a valuable experience for them (one they may not realize for weeks, months or years), there must be a valid, personally meaningful lesson mixed in with the emotion, pouts, arm crosses, one syllable responses and disciplinary consequence, if needed. Take the time to teach them the reasoning behind your disappointment and why this correction is going to matter for them now and later in life.
Disciplinary consequences are only useful if they are not academically punitive, match the offense and offer a good dose of reflection for the reasons punishment was handed out. If a suspension is needed, whether it is in-school or out of school, make sure you have a plan to welcome the child back to the community of learners. Don’t always hand out disciplinary measures. If the student demonstrates they have learned the lesson and makes the situation right, give them an opportunity to redeem themselves that way.
I used to have a boss who would tell students he loved them quite regularly, especially when he was holding them accountable. At first, I was uncomfortable when he would say that to a student. Maybe it was my need to separate personal emotion from my occupational emotion. Whatever the case, that is now in the past. I fully understand that my holding them accountable, teaching them a lesson and allowing them to maintain their dignity through a difficult period are all measures of love.
Holding students accountable for their words and actions is one of the most valuable lessons one can learn.
Can you recall when someone held you accountable?