Are You Tempted to Send Kids to the Hallway? Read This First

Do kids want to be sent out of the classroom?

In counseling, we often ask, “What is the function of the behavior?” or “How is this behavior serving this student?” Our goal is not to take whatever is said or done personally, but to become curious about the behavior.

During my school counseling internship, I walked down the hallway during class-time and observed what appeared to be a party in the hallway. There were a dozen students who had been dismissed from class for various reasons–missing a pencil, talking back, and not paying attention. It is hard not to imagine that their misbehavior was a purposeful ruse to be expelled from class to go spend time with their friends in the hallway.

Many teachers are blindsided when they provide simple instruction, and the student has a tantrum. For many teachers, a student’s tantrum results in a referral to the principal’s office or the hallway to “cool down.” It is likely that the task the teacher asked the student to complete wasn’t the actual trigger but somehow allowed the student to act in such a way that they were able to meet one of their needs, often either escape or attention.

As educators, we must know and understand what is maintaining the behavior. Are we inadvertently reinforcing the behavior we are hoping to extinguish? Is the student’s behavior attention-seeking or a means of escape? Once we are able to determine the purpose of the behavior, we can begin to extinguish the undesirable behavior by modifying the reinforcements to meet the student’s needs in a healthier and more constructive fashion.

Laura Riffel, otherwise known as the “Behavior Doctor,” has provided copious amounts of free materials on her website to help support teachers, parents, administrators, and support staff in modifying the environment to support desired student behavior.

Unlike many professionals who theorize about how to help students, Dr. Riffel has actually been in the trenches and works tirelessly to help students succeed. If you are looking to take PBIS to the next level at your school or need tips, behavior check-in sheets, video modeling, or ideas to enhance your own behavior curriculum, she’s the lady who gives most of it away for free.