Are You Ready for a Disciplinary Crisis?

Despite your best efforts, breakdowns in classroom order happen. Here are some steps to take and concepts to bear in mind the next time things get out of hand.

Reestablishing Order

  • Follow school procedures.
  • Nip the problem in the bud when possible.
  • Keep your cool.
  • Step back, get quiet, and change the atmosphere. “A good stare is worth a thousand screams!” says Dennis Granlie.
  • Switch over immediately to a quiet reading or writing assignment.
  • Calmly communicate that the offending behavior is not acceptable.

After Order has Returned

  • Follow through on stated discipline
  • Document all warnings and disciplinary action.
  • Discuss the issue with other teachers. They may be dealing with the same behaviors with the same student and have some insights.
  • Inform the principal and/or parents when necessary.


  • Ignore a problem that has the potential to escalate.
  • Get sucked into arguments or explanations.
  • Stop class and engage in a confrontation with the offending student(s).
  • Allow students to push your buttons—or show anger if they do.
  • Put down your students.
  • Coerce your students.
  • Throw tantrums.
  • Yell or scream.
  • Make threats.
  • Leave the classroom. One exception: When it’s necessary to remove an offending student from the classroom. Know your school’s policies and follow procedures carefully.


Adapted from “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Teaching Music, February 2011 (p. 41). Contributing MENC members were

   Margaret Schmidt, associate professor of music education, Arizona State University.

Janette Harriott, associate professor of elementary music education, University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Dennis Granlie, editor, Montana MEA magazine, MMEA Cadenza, and former music supervisor for Great Falls (Montana) Public Schools.

—Linda C. Brown, February 23, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (