5.2 Reinforcing positive behaviour: next steps

Teachers reinforce positive behaviour with a ‘Future behaviour letter’ (step 3 of ‘next steps’). If a student does not hand in the assignment, a senior member of staff ensures the handing in (step 4). A Future behaviour letter cost a student time. To avoid this assignment students pay attention to the lesson and stop disturbing it. With the ‘next steps’, you ensure everybody can concentrate.

I clearly state my boundaries by giving a limited number of Tips. When teaching the entire class, my students know that I hand out a ‘Future behaviour letter’ after the second tip. Students try to avoid this assignment and therefore pay attention.

Current approach:

How do I correct behaviour of a student who disrupts the lesson?

Future approach:

How do I reinforce positive behaviour in the future?

Introduction video


‘Reinforcing positive behaviour: next steps’ is one of the two modules of the perspective ‘Behaviour management strategies’ of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT)

Figure 57: Behaviour management strategies (overview)

The ‘next steps’ are at the top of this picture. With the ‘next steps’ you handle a disruption in a way that it does not reoccur.

No matter how you teach, disruptions can occur. When a disruption occurs, it is good to know how to handle it. FFT recommends the use of a ‘Future behaviour letter’ for this purpose.

The name ‘Future behaviour letter’ was coined by FFT and is to be understood its context. We capitalize this term and explain it in our ‘Professional language’ page. The Future behaviour letter’ replaces penalty work. With a Future behaviour letter, you involve the student in solving a problem and in doing so, you take the student seriously.

The Future behaviour letter is not only effective in the moment, it also has an effect over time. Students will, over time, say to each other, “At teacher X, you have to be careful, otherwise you will get a Future behaviour letter.”

This assignment is more effective if students always turn it in. Therefore you collaborate with a senior member of staff. If a student does not hand in the assignment to you, the senior member of staff takes care of the handing in of the assignment. Resolving the disruption with a Future behaviour letter is what FFT calls curative and is then akin to a cure. The disruption usually does not happen again. See alternative measures

The strength of the Future behaviour letter is that it both takes time away from the student and helps the student think about his or her own behaviour. By limiting the size of the assignment, you prevent it from resembling penalty work.

Figure 57: Reinforcing positive behaviour: next steps (overview)


Consider a Future behaviour letter as a gift to a student. With this assignment you give a student an opportunity to solve a problem. With this time-consuming assignment, you ask a student to reflect on what happened and ask the student to find a solution to the disruption. The student then becomes owner of the solution. This strengthens the bond between you and the student. The student signs the letter. You keep the assignment in your administration. From now on it is a sort of contract between you and the student.

If you are successful with this method of reinforcing positive behaviour, if it leads to a better attitude in the classroom. Everyone benefits: the student, you as a teacher, the parents and the school leadership. Your approach is predictable, friendly and fair. With the ‘next steps’ you solve a problem.

1. The importance of the next steps of reinforcing positive behaviour

1.1 Next steps

With a Future behaviour letter, you redirect the behaviour of a student who disrupts the lesson. After making the assignment, the student usually adjusts behaviour and then pays attention to your lessons. This way of reinforcing positive behaviour is effective because it takes a student’s time. If the student does not turn in the assignment to you, a senior member of staff takes care of handing in.

1.2 Not taking the next steps

If you don’t use a Future behaviour letter there are alternatives:

  1. You do not take action and accept disruptions.
  2. You have a good conversation with no consequence for the student.
  3. Penalty work

You do not take action and accept disruptions

This is akin to a fakir sitting on a bed of nails. Extraordinary, but is it advisable?

Students can continue disrupting your lesson. By not intervening effectively, disrupting the lesson actually provides an advantage for students: Whoever dares to challenge your authority is tough and rises in the esteem of fellow students.

If you warn students without taking action, your warnings have less and less effect and do not impress calculating students. They don’t take you seriously when you look stern and keep on warning. To let the behaviour stop you send a student out of class. Now you are in a negative spiral. According to FFT this approach is less effective than a Future behaviour letter.

2 Have a good conversation

When looking for a way to effectively redirect behaviour, a “good conversation” usually proves ineffective.

3 Penalty work

Punishment is as old as mankind. Prideaux quotes this assumption of Nietzsche:
At some point in prehistory, he [Nietzsche] supposed, a specific way of doing things arose that was harmful to the community. It led to the imposition of punishment. This was the moment when morality was constructed; this was the moment when our instincts were first curbed by a punitive society. Over time, the imposition of punishment led to introspection. Introspection led to conscience.” Prideaux (2018)

Seen this way, punishment is beneficial. The danger with punishment can be that receiving party perceives the punishment as unjust or disproportionate. That puts strain on the relationship.

1.3 Start taking the next steps

In the introduction of ‘Behaviour management strategies’ options are described that you can use to start reinforcing positive behaviour.

Before you hand out a Future behaviour letter, you inform the group about it. You make the moment of handing out predictable by first counting Tips with the Abacus. If you must give the assignment, give it with empathy: “Unfortunately, I have to give you this assignment now”. Then you give a student two chances to hand in the assignment to you. If not, a senior member of staff takes over the handing in from you.

2. Handing out a future behaviour letter – step 3

Figure 70: Future behaviour letter in whole class teaching (overview)

A Future behaviour letter is handed out in different approaches to teaching: In whole class teaching, working independently and for not doing homework. Consider using coloured paper (See Origin using colours).

Whole class teaching

In whole class teaching, the first Future behaviour letter is yellow (compare yellow card referee). In whole class teaching, the second Future behaviour letter is red (compare red card referee).

Working independently

When students are working independently or doing homework, there is no need to use coloured assignments. Then use plain white paper with black letters.

The advantage of these three colours of paper (yellow, red, white) is that you have a good indication why and when you handed out a Future behaviour letter.

For each age group and type of education you can adapt the Future behaviour letter slightly and give the assignment its own title e.g.

  • In primary education – letter to the teacher (lower and middle grades), reflection letter
  • In secondary school – Future behaviour letter (see example or view alternatives)
  • In SE-upper school, Vocational and teacher training, ‘performance interview’ may be most appropriate.

With a Future behaviour letter, you rob time from a student. With handing out this letter, you make clear that you do not accept disruptions in your lesson. At the same time, you are being friendly because:

  • A Future behaviour letter focuses on introspection and rehabilitation of the person making the assignment resulting in better functioning in the group.
  • A Future behaviour letter is short. This avoids associations with penalty work and retribution. If it turns out that a student keeps disturbing the lesson in a next reporting period, don’t give the same assignment but try an alternative.
  • You provide a Future behaviour letter in a friendly manner: “Too bad I have to give you this assignment now, but that’s the deal now.” This is how you show compassion for the work the student has to do. In this way, you remain friendly while reinforcing positive behaviour and avoid damaging the relationship with the student. You remain friendly and fair.

Increasing effect of the future behaviour letter

  • In order for a Future behaviour letter to be effective, it is necessary to hand out one. Just announcing that you are going to hand out an assignment is not effective. Only when a first student handed in the assignment to you, all students will be aware of its effect. Therefore, do not hesitate to hand out a first Future behaviour letter. The first students who get a future behaviour letter can be thought of as scouts. They explore the playing space for the others. If you effectively limit the playing space for disruptions, the other students accept your limitation.
  • After you the first future behaviour letter is turned in, the other students avoid getting it because they hear from the “scout” who made the assignment first that it takes a lot of time. The other students now consider whether the costs of disrupting (gaining popularity in the class or making an autonomous impression) outweigh the disadvantages (loss of time and having to think about and revise your own behaviour).
  • If a student does not turn in the assignment to you, you ask a senior member of staff to take care of the handing in of the assignment. Your students don’t like the idea of handing in the assignment to a senior member of staff. Therefore, most students prefer to hand in the assignment to you. Opposition to the assignment makes no sense for students because you cooperate with a senior member of staff. At the same time, you keep agreements and are predictable. Your approach creates a good atmosphere and results improve.
  • Because the student makes the assignment after class, the student has time to reflect on previous behaviour. The time between handing out and handing in ensures that both parties have accommodated the immediate emotion.

Completion of the Future behaviour letter

Practice tells us that both teacher and student want to put the assignment to an end as quickly as possible. Therefore, students usually hand in the assignment immediately.
The discussion between you and the student is usually pleasant. This is partly because the assignment focuses on what happened. A second reason the discussion is pleasant is that no others are present. For the students, there is no incentive to be tough. Sometimes the conversation reveals things that you could not have known. This creates mutual understanding. You and your student really meet and reconnect.

2.1 Example of a Future behaviour letter

The following example of a Future behaviour letter was created in collaboration with the staff from a secondary school. This assignment can be used in both PE and SE. FFT recommends using this example as a starting point. This assignment does not take students a lot of time. By giving this short assignment you avoid association with penalty work.

With this assignment, you ask a student who disrupts the lesson two questions. By answering these questions, the student reflects on what happened and thinks about a change of behaviour in the future. Once signed by the student, this assignment turns into an agreement between you and the student. You keep this the letter/agreement in your records.

Future behaviour letter


Answer the two questions below in well-written sentences. Before writing down the answers, make a draft. The teacher will keep the final version and can refer to what you write later. Return this letter to your teacher/teacher at the appointed time.

1 What is the reason for this letter, what happened? (Please include at least three whole sentences, head, middle and tail).

2 What can you change/improve about your behaviour (Please provide at least three whole sentences, head, middle tail).

Student’s signature


2.2 Where does the student write a future behaviour letter?

When and where does a student make the assignment?

  1. After class
    You can choose to make an appointment with a student to write the letter outside of class in your presence. You hand out the assignment when the student appears at the appointed time. When the letter is finished, you can discuss the assignment immediately. This a simple and effective option because staying late also costs the student extra time which adds to the effect of the assignment.
  2. At home
    You can also choose for asking to write the letter at home.  When you hand out the letter, agree with the student a day and time to hand in the assignment to you. When you have handed out the assignment, ask the student to put the assignment in his or her bag so that it will not get lost.

2.3 Handing in and discussing a future behaviour letter

If you hand out a an assignment such as a Future behaviour letter or a writing assignment, you make agree with the student a moment on when to hand in the assignment. You give a student two chances to hand the letter in to you.

Student hands in the letter

You briefly review the assignment or indicate that you will look at it in a moment and then come back to it. A good time for this is when students are working independently. The discussion can be short because the assignment is short. If the assignment is done correctly, you thank the student. The quote below makes it clear why thanking a student is so important.

I learned from my former graduate student Sara Algoe that we don’t express gratitude in order to repay debts but rather to strengthen relationships.” Haidt (2012)

Usually the conversation at handing in the assignment is brief. If you have enough time, and you feel there is more to it, consider the following: during the conversation, use the ABCDE of situational decomposition Rational Emotive Therapy (RET):

Figure 71: Rational emotive therapy

2.4 Collaboration with senior member of staff – step 4

At the beginning of the lesson when you expect a student to hand in an assignment, you stand at the door with an extra copy of the letter in hand. If the student arrives you ask for the assignment. If the student does not hand in the assignment, you hand out an extra copy and ask the student to make the assignment out of class and to hand in the assignment after class together with a send out bill. In effect you are now sending the student out of class.

If after class the student again does not hand in assignment, you ask the staff to take care. The student can now only visit your lessons after the letter has been handed in at the staff. In secondary education, it is very important that from the moment a senior member of staff takes over handing it in from you, everything is taken care of as soon as possible and preferably within one week. Otherwise, students will start hanging around school. From that, other problems arise.

Parents usually appreciate you calling them. When you call parents, in exceptional cases they will completely take sides with their child. You then thank the parents for the call anyway, and indicate that you will handle the situation together with the staff.

Differences PE and SE

Primary education

  • If you have handed out a Future behaviour letter, try to handle and resolve it with the student in question even before the next half-day session. That way you can start the new part of the day positively.
  • At recess or after school, preferably the same day, discuss the letter with the student. The sooner you discuss the letter, the sooner you can get back on good terms. Ask the student to summarize what happened and ask what the student plans to do about it. If the answer is satisfactory, indicate that it is now resolved. Thank the student for turning it in.
  • With young children who cannot yet write, ask the child to draw a picture about the events. When discussing the drawing, the student tells you what he or she drew.

Secondary education

The follow-up discussion itself can be brief. Ask the student to summarize what happened and ask what the student plans to do about it. After a response from the student that is acceptable to you, indicate that it has been resolved and thank the student.

2.5 Student refuses to write a letter

If a student protests against a Future behaviour letter, this is the advice for PE, SE and vocational education.

Primary education

Ask the student to walk with you and make the assignment with an internal supervisor and/or school leader. If the student refuses  you tell:  “If you refuse this now, I will ask the supervisor or school leader to remove you from the class.” Ask the rest of the class to continue working quietly and walk over to the colleague in question. Give this colleague a brief explanation and ask your colleague to quietly remove the student from the class so that the student can complete the letter in the presence of this colleague. When the student then completes the letter, briefly discuss it with the student and thank the student. The student may re-enter the classroom and you do not discuss it again. If the student still refuses to write the letter, you discuss the next step with your colleague. For example: invite the parents to a meeting and until then let the student do his work in the presence of a supervisor and/or school management.

Secondary education

If a student refuses the letter the moment you hand it out, you say, “You can stop this behaviour now, or I will unfortunately have to give you a bigger assignment.” Usually the student then accepts the first offered short assignment. If the student continues to protest, ask the student to leave the classroom. If the student refuses, you say, “If you stay put now, it becomes a matter for the staff. You still have a chance to leave the class now”.

If the student continues to refuse to leave the class, you walk out of the classroom and ask a colleague for assistance. Together, you convince the student that leaving is now the best option. This way, you retain the initiative.

Vocational education

Josie teaches vocational education to teaching assistants in training. With her students, and in general with somewhat older students, an obvious reaction to a Future behaviour letter is, “I think this is childish, I would rather you address me at the end of class.” You do not respond to this request. This desire of the student is understandable, but research by Astrid Boon shows that a “good talk,” especially at that time, has little effect. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Such a conversations cost students little time and there is no need to reflect. Because the student does not reflect on the cause of the disruption and on improvement, no transformation takes place. Without an assignment to make at home, the student gets off easily and without loss of time.
  2. You often barely have time after class to discuss a disruption and both you and the student have not had a chance to sleep on it overnight. Emotion then quickly takes over in such a conversation. The student then gets the impression that you are reacting impulsively.

What do you do when a student refuses to write a letter? You then say to the student:
“You can stop this behaviour now, or I will unfortunately have to give you a big assignment.” Be prepared for this by having a bigger assignment in reserve. Saying these words usually has the effect of getting a student to accept the first, small assignment (Courtesy of Stephan Dinkgreve).

2.6 Package leaflet for future behaviour letter

The Future behaviour letter has an effect similar to a medicine: curative. This section can be thought of as a package leaflet belonging to FFT’s medicine.

In a certain dosage, medication helps and in too high a dosage, it backfires. It is unwise to administer the entire class the medication. If the dosage is too high, if you give all students a Future behaviour letter, riots can occur and an increasingly grim situation ensues. How do you deal with protests from the group of students who were given a Future behaviour letter? How do you prevent the class, parents, colleagues and school administration from getting annoyed by the amount of work you give students? What do you do when they come to seek redress?

You can prevent all this by aiming to hand out a maximum of one Future behaviour letter  approach to teaching (whole class teaching and working independently). In very exceptional situations you hand out two letters within a lesson.

Before you start with whole class teaching, prepare two Future behaviour letters: a yellow one (the first one you hand out) and a red one (the last one you hand out). Per lesson you never hand out more than two letters. Compare this to soccer: The first yellow card in this is a warning. Upon receiving the second card, the red, the player must leave the field. In FFT, after handing out the second, the red Future behaviour letter, you stop teaching: you interrupt the lesson.

2.7 Student keeps disrupting the lesson

If a student, who was just given a Future behaviour letter, continues to disrupt the lesson, ignore this student in the remainder of the lesson as much as possible. There is no point in frantically trying to get this student to stop the disruptive behaviour during that lesson. By ignoring this student, you prevent escalation and avoid approaching the student angrily. However, you do have the option, if the student seeks confrontation, to grab your Tip Book. In it, you write down how the student provokes you. You pose as a reporter of the student’s behaviour. You don’t say anything, you write. The student sees that you write something down in your Tip Book and suspects that you will attach consequences to these notes. Presumably this is not necessary. If your writing in the Tip book causes the student to stop interrupting, you can leave the comments you just wrote down, you do not attach any consequences. If a student pushes the limit, you contact a senior member of staff after class with your notes in the Tip book as proof.

This tactic is necessary to remain friendly. Were you to give this student a second Tip within one lesson, a grim atmosphere would develop.

If a student continues to disrupt the lesson, FFT’s advice is: Focus on other students. Predictably continue your normal routine of instruction, prompting with body language and if body language does not have the desired effect with a Tip.

3. Interrupting – whole class teaching or working independently

What action do you take when your limit is reached? We answer that question first for whole class teaching and then for working independently. We then elaborate both approaches in two columns.

Whole class teaching

In whole class teaching, the first yellow future behaviour letter can be seen as a warning. When you hand out the second red letter, to another student. With the color read you indicate that too many disruptions have occurred. Therefore, after the red letter, you stop the lesson. You give the following instruction, “I will stop teaching now. All go to work on homework (may be any subject) without discussion.” After handing out the Red Time Assignment,  everyone does homework in silence.

Students who do confer, you set aside one by one. You remain vigilant that students don’t confer. When there are no more places left to separate students, you announce that unfortunately you will have to remove the next student who is talking from the class. This is a necessary exception at FFT. If you allow some deliberation anyway, you undermine your own authority. By stopping the lesson after the second letter, you isolate up to two students from the group: they both got a Future behaviour letter. The other students do not have an assignment. The turn is now up to the two students to do the assignment. Only after the assignments are handed in the bond between you and the students is restored and these two students may participate again in the next lesson. After this, the whole class will function better.

In practice, this does not happen very often (1 percent of your lessons – overview upper right). By interrupting whole class teaching, you are implicitly indicating that your professional limit has been reached. With asking your students to do homework in silence, you prevent that:

  • students make you react like a puppet to disruptions in the lesson.
  • you cross your professional boundary and become angry.
  • a wanton mutiny-like power play develops similar to the situation when a teacher sends several students out of class within a lesson.
  • That with handing out a large number of (more than two) letters, you are taking too much time from the class as a whole, putting pressure on their homework. Chances are then that in addition to students also parents, colleagues and school administration will protest the excessive number of letters you hand out.

None of this is necessary. It is much better to calmly wait for the completion of the two handed out assignments and then start the next lesson with a clean slate.

Working independently

You attach conditions to independent work. Agree with the class in advance that you will only give four Tips within a lesson during independent work. Strive to hand out one or, at most, two future behaviour letters (printed on white paper) during working independently. You hand out a letter when you see on your list that you are addressing a student for the third time for disruptive behaviour. If you manage to give only one Tip to a student per lesson, a letter is not handed out until the third lesson.

Because you use the abacus, your students see the moment coming when you will interrupt working independently. You interrupt working independently after the fourth Tip. Apparently the group as a whole is too busy and students cannot concentrate. You then continue with whole class teaching. In doing so you avoid:

  • giving more than four Tips.
  • a situation where students cannot concentrate.
  • eroding your own authority (compare endless warning).
  • annoying yourself and your students with too many Tips and with the accompanying agitation.


  1. The fourth Tip in independent work does not lead to handing out a letter.
  2. Handing out a Future behaviour letter to a student during working independently does not affect other students.

4. Exceptions regarding removing students from class

FFT recommends not to send students out of class. However, there are exceptions:

  • The first exception could take place right away in the first lesson. If you start with FFT, and you have chosen not to work with the Future behaviour letter yet. In the worst case, you give six Tips that lesson, all of which students unfortunately ignore, then you ask students to work on their homework without deliberation. Then you set aside students who do deliberate. When there is no more room to set students apart, you announce that who continues to deliberate is at risk of having to leave the class.
  • A similar situation can occur later in the year when whole class teaching. After the second red Future behaviour letter is handed out, you interrupt teaching.
  • If you gave a student a Future behaviour letter in the previous lesson, wait for the student at the classroom door at the beginning of the lesson. You will then have an extra copy of the letter on hand. When you see the student arrive, ask if the assignment is made. If not, you give this student the copy of the assignment and ask the student to make it out of class and turn it in at the end of class with an send out bill. Even before class begins, you have now sent this student out of class.
  • The fourth exception is “transgressive behaviour”. If a student hits a fellow student or scolds you or his peers, you expel this student immediately. By doing so, you are guarding safety for the entire group.

5. Alternative measures to reinforce positive behaviour

If a Future behaviour letter does not have the desired curative effect, consider taking a different measure with a student who disrupts a lesson again in a subsequent period:

  1. Reflective writing assignment Astrid Boon
  2. Students come up with their own corrective action
  3. Good conversation
  4. Ask for motive
  5. Stay after school
  6. Creative writing assignment
  7. Conversation with parents, a senior member of staff, student and teacher
  8. Writing assignment Teitler

5.1 Reflective writing assignment Astrid Boon

As an orthopedagist, Astrid Boon devised the reflective writing assignment. You compose such an assignment with the student after class and date it. After the text is composed, you ask the student to transcribe this advice ten times and have it signed by the parents. You also indicate when and where the student turns in the assignment.

The reflective writing assignment focusses on the event that preceded it. A reflective writing assignment has four components. With these components as a starting point you compose the assignment together with a student:

  1. Name your own behaviour in this way: It is not the intention that …, because … .
  2. Reflect on own behaviour: If I …, I make sure that …
  3. Indicate instead of justification: Also if I … , because this way I make the problems bigger instead of smaller …
  4. Make up a helpful suggestion: From now on … , so that I …


  1. From now on, I’m not going to push and pull on other people’s clothes, even if someone has taken my pen away, because that only makes the issue worse.
  2. It is better, if the next time I threaten to get angry I walk up to the teacher
  3. and ask for another seat, because my neighbour is pulling on me.
  4. That way I can avoid disturbing the whole class because I can’t keep my hands to myself, and that way I can also avoid a childish writing assignment.” Boon (2009) Astrid

A reflective writing assignment you tailor for each situation and therefore takes you more time than handing out a standard Future behaviour letter you already have at your disposal. The content of such a reflective writing assignment specifically addresses what prompted it. The reflective writing assignment combines features of reflection as well as old-fashioned punishment rules. The reflective writing assignment has more of an academic character than the Future behaviour letter. When a student fails to improve behaviour permanently, a reflective writing assignment is more effective than again giving a Future behaviour letter which apparently did not had a lasting effect.

5.2 Students come up with their own corrective action

José Caballero, chairman of the Rapucation Foundation (which includes FFT), and teacher chemistry has a different approach when reinforcing positive behaviour: “If a student does not do what is intended, I ask him or her in a conversation at the end of the lesson to come up with a measure to solve the problem. We then agree on this. Usually the student complies with the self-devised measure.”

5.3 Good conversation

If a conversation has no consequences for the student, behaviour change does not follow in most cases. We mentioned this earlier at ‘Vocational education‘.

However, if you discuss the consequences of problematic behaviour (e.g., staying put) with a student at a quiet moment as a mentor, and by calmly asking the question of whether the student is mindful of the consequence of staying put, such a conversation may well bring about a change in behaviour in a student.

5.4 Ask student for motive

If a student hits another student, you ask this student to write down why he or she wants to hit another student. You then keep that piece of paper and come back to it later with the student. You can then ask if this is still the case”. Eidhof (2021), Bram

5.5 Stay after school

Example 1 – Primary education

A boy kept refusing to make a lesson for a certain subject. Thereupon I asked the boy to stay after and instructed him: make the lesson now and when you finish it, come to me. The boy went to work. Meanwhile, I myself checked the work of the other students. When the boy was finished, he was allowed to go home. The next day this pattern repeated itself and also the next week. At one point the boy comes to me and asks, “How long are you going to do this? I reply, “Until you just do your work in class.” The next day the boy went straight to work during class. The problem solved itself. There was no need for me to get angry.

Example 2 – Secondary education

I was in 6 VWO at the Hervormd Lyceum West in Amsterdam. One Friday afternoon I was playing chess with a friend in a totally deserted school. I remember we were wearing brown corduroy pants and jackets. After playing chess, we both grabbed a board wiper, an old-fashioned one with chalk attached, and started working each other with it. We had a lot of fun. Then an amanuensis from chemistry walked in and asked us to stop doing that. We thought that was totally unnecessary, since we were in the sixth grade. Besides, we had no lessons from him, did we? So we went on our merry way. About a month later I was taken out of class by the principal, Mr. Huisman. He asked me what had happened that afternoon. I said that nothing had happened. Thereupon the rector asked me to stand by at the so-called “lament wall.” That was a bare wall at the top of the stairs of the central stairwell where everyone walked by. The rector told me to wait there. After an hour, he asked me again what had happened. Again I said, “Nothing happened.” The rector told me to wait again. Meanwhile, the school was emptying and I just stood there. Standing without being allowed to do anything is exhausting. For the third time, the rector came to me and asked what had happened. I then reluctantly told him that I was playing with sign wipers with a friend. The rector only said, “Don’t do it again,” and then I was allowed to go. Now I realize that this was an example af ‘reinforcing positive behaviour’. The measure was effective because it cost me time and the principal remained friendly.

5.6 Creative writing assignment

Create the beginning of a fable about a self-created disruption. Invite a student who is disrupting the class to finish the  fable in a creative, friendly and fair way.

5.7 Conversation with parents, a senior member of staff, student and teacher

If a student does not respond well to a Future behaviour letter or any of the alternatives then it is time for a conversation about the student’s behaviour with the parents, a senior member of staff, the student and the teacher. This requires the students to engage in a conversation with his or her parents. The parents of course want to know what is going on. In the conversation the student has to clarify in front of parents, school leadership and teacher what is going on and how to get it back on track. Pretty time-consuming, then, and not really something to look forward to. Students rather avoid that!

5.8 Writing assignment Teitler

Teitler describes how he sets up writing assignments with standard texts in which the type of offence, the negative effects, the excuses and the alternatives are already pre-cooked, and which the student then has to overwrite a number of times (Lessons in Order, §5.5 Punishment)

This seems efficient because all the teacher has to do is pull the appropriate assignment out of the drawer and hand it out. It takes time from the students but they do not have to tell what happened and do not have to think about their own responsibility in the disruption. In short, there is no coming together of teacher and student.

Friendly and Fair Teaching therefore prefers a form an assignment that asks the student to name, examine, evaluate and resolve their own behaviour.

6. Summary

With Friendly and Fair teaching, students are given multiple opportunities to improve their behaviour. The first steps (Using body language and giving Tips) do not cost students any time and are therefore, in a sense are for free. A student who does not respond well to the first steps, you hand out a Future behaviour letter. This letter does cost a student time. With this assignment a student gets the chance to play a role in improving his or her own behaviour.

  • Rethinking: While giving a Future behaviour letter, keep in mind that you are helping the student to function better in the classroom from now on. You know that by reinforcing positive behaviour, you are preventing you and the student from getting stuck in a power game. This realization helps you remain friendly.
  • While reinforcing positive behaviour, you do not take on any negativity from the student. When you hand out an assignment, you show compassion and understanding for the difficult task that awaits the student by saying, “Unfortunately, I have to give you this assignment now.”

7. Credits

Gabrielle la Rose – Safety coordinator at Pieter Nieuwland College in Amsterdam

Gabrielle mediates conflicts between students and teachers. In doing so, she uses a reflection report. Creating a reflection report takes a student’s time. Her assignment is at the root of several assignments of FFT including the Future behaviour letter.

Stephan Dinkgreve – Physics teacher

Stephan attended a music class taught by Johan ‘t Hart. He started working with in a slightly different way as for reinforcing positive behaviour. Instead of penalty work, which Johan was still using at the time, Stephan used a variation of the reflection report mentioned above. Johan then adopted this new way behaviour management from Stephan.
From Stephan we also learned that if a student protests getting a ‘Future behaviour letter, as a teacher you friendly and fair indicate, “You can stop this behaviour now, otherwise I will unfortunately have to give you a bigger assignment.”

Astrid Boon – Orthopedagogue

As a pedagogical orthopedagogue, Astrid based measures to reinforce positive behaviour on countless conversations with students. She discovered that students respond well to an assignment that takes their time. This in contrast with a “good conversation” which does not take any of their time. She wrote two books about this: “Punishment/Rules” and “Too Cozy in Class. She also made it clear that sending a student out of class is an extreme remedy. She advised taking a number of smaller steps prior to using this extreme remedy. In consultation with Astrid Boon, FFT fleshed out her suggestion with the four steps teachers take to reinforce positive behaviour. These four steps come together in the ‘Ladder of action’. The active ingredient of the Ladder of action is the Future behaviour letter. This is a small assignment. If a student’s behaviour does not improve, in a subsequent period, you can hand out Astrid Boon’s larger reflective writing assignment.

Jeroen van Morselt – Senior member of staff at Pieter Nieuwland College

Jeroen van Morselt worked as a senior member of staff with Johan ‘t Hart, who then was a music teacher, at a secondary school: Pieter Nieuwland College. Together they made sure that a student who was given a Future behaviour letter always handed in the assignment. Colleagues at the PNC worked with Jeroen in a similar way. One result of this collaboration was that teachers at the PNC sent fewer students out of class.

Moniek Kors-Tulen – Economics teacher at Teylingen College

Moniek explained that when she gives a student a Future behaviour letter, she asks the student , after class, to make it in her presence. This approach reinforces the active component of the assignment: time robbing. After making the assignment, Moniek discusses the assignment with the student. In the lesson after that, the assignment then no longer plays a role.