EduTips are micro-episodes of the Cult of Pedagogy Podcast.
Each EduTip offers one small, useful thing that will help you become a better teacher.

Sponsored by Stash101.

I first heard about this technique as a college student in my own pre-service teacher program, but I haven’t seen the term around since then, so I thought it was worth re-circulating it for any teacher who hasn’t heard of it.

Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re in class and you start to notice the very early signs of a problem; maybe a student is getting fidgety, two students are irritating each other, or a student seems to be feeling extra anxious or overstimulated.

In this situation, you might think you only have two options: The first would be to ignore it. Doing this is often the best choice, because it allows you and the rest of the class to continue on, and the issue might just go away on its own. On the other hand, it might not, and if you know your students well—which is the foundation of all good classroom management—you’ll quickly learn which situations are ignorable and which are true warnings of bigger problems on the horizon. The second option would be to address the behavior directly. Doing this might solve the problem on the spot, but if the student is having a really bad day or is quick to get defensive, it might actually escalate things. This approach also interrupts whatever is happening with the rest of the class and could draw extra attention to the student, which could end up making them go twice as hard with whatever they were doing. 

So I’m offering you a third option, an additional tool you might opt to use in these situations: the antiseptic bounce. When you see small early signs of off-task behavior or indications that a student might be headed toward an anxious or overstimulated emotional state, give that student something to do—maybe ask them to return a book to the library or take a paper to the office—something that will get them out of the classroom for just a few minutes to reset. You can even make something up, maybe set up an agreement with another teacher in advance that any time a student brings a copy of Beowulf to their room, they are actually on an antiseptic bounce and that teacher should act like they were expecting the book. 

Just in case the name of this strategy doesn’t make sense to you, here’s a quick explanation: the bounce is the departure, the sending them out of the room. It’s antiseptic because things that have antiseptic properties slow the growth of microorganisms that cause infection; in other words, they prevent bigger problems from happening. By the way, I didn’t make this term up—Google it—but I think it’s kind of catchy.

A couple of notes on using this strategy: (1) It’s important that you act as if you’re sending the student on a legitimate errand, not that you are deliberately removing them from class as a punishment. Sending a message of “punishment” will likely only make things worse. (2) You also don’t want to give students the impression that you are rewarding the “bounced” student for being off-task; the move should be very subtle and done as if you just chose the student at random. If you do it before the behavior is obvious to the rest of the class, that will be easy to accomplish. (3) This is NOT for problems that are already big. If a student is clearly becoming hostile, violent, or visibly upset in a way that would need more care, other actions would be more appropriate. It is also only for situations where it would be safe for that student to be walking the halls of your school: If the student is very emotional or angry, they need to still be supervised for their own safety and the safety of others.

See all EduTips here.