Why “Just Write Them Up” Isn’t Always the Answer

As a teacher, you sometimes have those days when a student or a whole class does something crazy or rude or inappropriate, and you feel the need to vent about it to a friend/family member/everyone on social media… But sometimes we get this response: “Just write them up.” “Send them to the office.” “Don’t put up with that.”

As if it were that simple.


On behalf of all teachers everywhere who have heard this, let me explain why those statements are not only unhelpful, but also very misinformed.

  1. We have to PICK OUR BATTLES. Especially in our difficult classes, there are so many crazy things happening at any given moment, that if we were to write up everything that may deserve a referral, we would never have time to teach. Some things, for the sake of the lesson and maintaining some sort of classroom structure, we have to let slide. 57646093
  2. If we make a spectacle of the student and situation, it often just STOKES THE FLAME and causes more problems. Sometimes ignoring a toddler’s tantrum is best. The same is true for older kids and teens. Making a big deal about the situation can also rile up the class, and that’s the last thing you want.
  3. We may very well LOSE THE CLASS TO CHAOS if we “step aside” and take time to write up those students or deal with them sufficiently. When you’re dealing with a difficult class, if you loosen your reigns for a second, their concentration scatters and you’re left picking up the pieces for several minutes before you can regain their focus enough to start teaching again. chased-by-monkeys.gif
  4. Some of the things we would want to write referrals for SOUND STRAIGHT UP STUPID. “Student was sniffing glue.” “Student was meowing like a cat.” “Student was writing on herself and others.” “Student can not keep his hands to himself.” “Student was throwing pencil shrapnel.” The reality is, that student has done ten thousand “stupid” things that have accumulated over the months of torture we’ve endured. It’s really hard to justify or even articulate every offense that student has committed.
  5. Writing a referral for a student DAMAGES OUR RELATIONSHIP with that kid, and we’ve worked so hard on that all year. Obviously, sometimes a referral is needed and there’s no way around it. But it will come at a cost. Besides, everyone will tell you that a strong student/teacher relationship is one of the biggest factors in student success.
  6. Teachers are control freaks, and when we write a referral, we are HANDING OVER THE DISCIPLINARY CONTROL to someone else. Now, if it’s an extreme situation that needs an administrator, that’s different. But if we can handle the discipline issues ourselves, we will, at all cost. tenor
  7. Writing a referral is a last resort, and when we do it, IT FEELS LIKE WE’VE FAILED. That piece of paper is like a public statement: “I can’t handle this student.” I know we shouldn’t feel that way, but we do. And, to be honest, the kids feel that way too. They know when a teacher has lost control and has to resort to a referral. For that matter, depending on the school, the principals may even feel like you can’t handle your students. Again, it shouldn’t be that way, but in the world we live in today, this is a teacher’s reality.

So, please, if you know a teacher, love them and encourage them. And if they ever vent to you about a student or class, don’t suggest to them what you think they should do. Just pat them on the shoulder and empathize with them for the hell they have to go through every day. Somebody has to do it, and we choose to because, although we don’t always act like it, WE LOVE OUR JOBS.



~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on May 23, 2017.

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