Basic Forms No Teacher Should Be Without
Preprinted forms constitute a powerful tool in your classroom-management toolkit. The fast pace of most classrooms makes writing every message by hand impractical. In fact, certain disciplining situations — for example, two students fighting — require such a quick response that sitting down to write a note or letter in the middle of the crisis can often prove virtually impossible. Forms save valuable time, which allows you to swiftly help students in need or restore order to an unruly classroom or transmit vital information to parents or administrators.
One of the most basic forms that many schools and school districts have adopted is the agenda, also known as a student planner. Agendas are plan books that are ordered by schools or districts, printed with particulars such as a school's name, behavioral rules, dress codes, and bell schedules as well as useful information such as mathematics charts, scientific tables, etc.
An agenda is almost identical to your teacher's lesson-plan book, except that students use their agendas for recording assignments, and you use the agenda for communicating with parents on a regular basis. If your school doesn't use agendas, you'll need to think seriously about creating your own classroom agendas for your students. Here's what the agenda looks like:
Pages are presented in pairs, with the name of the current month and year printed across the top.
As with your plan book, the agenda displays a week's worth of specific dates down the left side, with the first row beginning at Monday and the last row ending at Friday.
Core academic subjects appear in columns across the top, from left to right.
The columns and rows intersect in large white squares, where students can write homework assignments and any other planning notations. But even more importantly, you can write messages to parents in these squares, or in white space at the bottom of each page.
Yes, you might use assorted scraps of paper to write messages to parents, but it's unprofessional. With agendas, you have a neat, written record of parental communications — proof, should you need it later, that parents have received notification of problems.
Of course, no form is foolproof, and there's no guarantee a student might not rip your messages out of his agenda. That's why you need to be sure to always make a copy of any message you place in a student's agenda.
If your school assigns certain penalties for a certain number of violations, note the ordinal number of the violation. For example, if school rules mandate an agenda warning for a student's first tardy of the quarter or semester, you might write, “1st T. Bruce Wayne was tardy to 2nd Per. Please speak to him. Thanks.” Don't forget to sign your entry — some parents get offended if you've forgotten your signature.
After you've returned the student's agenda, immediately take a few seconds to file the copy in the student's dossier or classroom file, which you keep along with all your students' dossiers in a lockable two-drawer file cabinet beside your desk.
These are reference folders to use if students try to scratch out or rip out agenda notations or if parents try to claim that you never notified them of problems. Get in the habit of instantly filing agenda notes in dossiers; otherwise, they'll get misplaced or lost and you may have no proof that you ever notified the student or his parents of anything. Use agendas and agenda notes consistently.
Another essential form to keep on hand is your school's hall pass. Hall passes generally come in tear-off packs and are used when students want to leave the classroom for bathroom breaks, etc. Remember, keeping watch over your students is a sacred responsibility, so never let kids leave your classroom without a signed hall pass.
Fill in all the information requested on the hall pass, and if there are no lines to notate the student's departure and return times, write the information there anyway. Remind each student to return in a timely manner and to hand the hall pass back to you immediately upon returning. Then, instantly file every hall pass in the students' dossiers.
Hall passes can constitute an important record, because if graffiti or vandalism is discovered in a restroom, the hall pass might help establish who was in a restroom at a particular time. Hall passes can also be shown to a student's parents during a parent conference as evidence of a large number of out-of-class trips. Keep a good stock of hall passes and replenish them early and often.
Also keep a good supply of memorandum forms on hand. You make these yourself, to send messages to teaching colleagues, administrators, and other staff. Here are the simple steps in creating memorandum forms on your computer:
Use a word-processing program such as Microsoft Word.
Use the rulers along the top and side of your document to create four equally sized memorandum forms on one sheet of paper, all containing the same information. In other words, you'll divide the sheet into equal fourths.
For each form, center and type the title “Memorandum.”
Next, align left and type “From:” followed by your name and classroom number.
Then type “To:” followed by a blank line.
Type “Date:” followed by a blank line.
Finally, type “Subject:” followed by a blank line.
Print the form and make 200 copies, sufficient to last the school year.
Cut the forms into equal fourths and staple them so that each form has two sheets.
Keep these memorandum forms on your desk with your other essential forms. Always be sure to make a copy of completed forms for your files.
Unfortunately, you'll also need to keep a good supply of detention slips on your desk, if your school uses such forms as part of an in-school detention process. Detention is a discipline tool for students who chronically misbehave. The student is assigned a certain number of minutes that she must serve after school, usually in your classroom, although procedures vary.
If there's any question whatsoever of a safety issue for a student you've told to escort a suspended student to the office, excuse the escort and instead telephone the front office so an administrator can pick up the student along with the suspension form.
Detention forms are a necessary evil because some misbehaving students simply don't respond to warnings, counseling, agenda notes, or phone calls. Fill out a detention slip for a student whenever warranted. Mark the date of the detention at least one day subsequent to the day you fill it out and staple the student's copy in her agenda so that parents have time to read it and make any necessary arrangements. Then, as always, file your copy in the student's dossier.
Finally, you'll have to keep suspension forms on your desk for the most serious disciplinary problems. Suspension forms should be used only in two cases: (1) when all other disciplinary steps have produced virtually no improvement in a student's chronically disruptive behavior; or (2) when a student suddenly engages in an egregiously defiant or disruptive incident of misbehavior, such as fighting in class or cursing at you. Quickly fill out the suspension form, give the office copy to a trusted student, and have that student escort the offender to the front office.
Keep all of these basic forms handy and in good supply and you'll seldom have to worry about your class grinding to a halt while you try to resolve the pesky classroom-management problems that inevitably arise in any classroom.