Cursing in the classroom

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by BeckyPie7, May 22, 2008.

  1. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    May 22, 2008

    Can you tell me what you do with high school students who insist on using profanity in the classroom? I've tried a number of things, none of which have worked.
    At first, I tried warning them and then calling parents and writing them up (if the problem continued). This didn't work. The student apologized at the warning and continued to cures. When I called the parents they would do one of two things. Either they would say they were going to talk to the child or they showed me why their child curses so much. When I wrote the students up, the principle began visiting my classroom; assuming that all the write-ups meant that I must not be an effective teacher. The constant visits brought on new problems (i.e. less respect for me).
    Then, I tried making them do something every time they curse. Some teachers make them do push ups. They refused. I made a worksheet they had to do each time they cursed. They threw the paper on the floor and cursed further.
    Finally, I gave up. Now I simply give them a look when the curse or say their name. They apologize and I inform them that I don't want an apology if they aren't going to stop. They don't stop. I don't write them up because then I get the rep. of being a bad teacher yet all of the kids know that, because the administration fails to support us there isn't much we can do to the by way of punishment.
    What do you do when the students curse? How do you handle/eliminate it?
     
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  3. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    May 22, 2008

    I have always assumed that excessive and ill-timed profanity was, like violence, the prerogative of people with small vocabularies, small brains, and smaller penises. It's compensation for something someone doesn't have.

    You might try putting some quotations around the room; here are some my 8th graders wrote one year:

    "Profanity: when you don't know the right words but still want to seem smart to other people who don't know very many words either."

    "Cursing is what people do when they can't do much else."

    "Cursing and violence: two things that impress no one except others who don't know how to do anything else, either."

    "What to do when you don't know the answer and are ashamed of it: swear."

    "Cursing and violence: practice for when you live in a cardboard box under a bridge."

    "Profanity and violence: two of the last refuges for homely guys with no sex appeal."

    "Guys who swear a lot, can't be trusted to care a lot."

    "Girls, don't touch guys who swear. You don't know where that mouth has been."

    "Men don't swear. Little boys do, sometimes, but never a Man."

    "Swearing and cigarettes: what men do who secretly wish they could suck a baby bottle."

    The really good quotes I can't put on here. The filter would reject them and the anal among us would implode. But they were really good.
     
  4. smarkham01

    smarkham01 Companion

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    May 22, 2008

    Problems with this assumption:

    it doesn't account for those who curse in class simply to irritate the teacher;

    it doesn't account for those who have adequate vocabularies but choose these words because they can;

    it doesn't account for those who are ctually quite bright but choose to use this language because they can;

    it doesn't account for females;

    it draws conclusions about physical size which far too many would be willing to demonstrate isn't true.


     
  5. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    May 23, 2008

    While some of those statements are cute I don't know if it would help me to put those around the room. I know my students. They would simply use them as an oppertunity to argue with me and use more profanity. They would also think it's funny that they use profanity because they would be getting the attention that they crave. The other students would use the quotes to egg them on. Seriously, my students are from planet backwards. All the things I think will work never do.
     
  6. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

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    May 23, 2008

    I have the same problem, but with my somehow "special" class of 9 students. These are students with some rough backgrounds, and who have failed to do the "regular" curriculum. They did curse a lot in the beginning, now they do control themselves a lot more. They don't curse to provoke me though (in the beginning they did, a bit ), they use some curses as a way of speaking. I did send some of my students to the study room, when they used profanity. But as they did control themselves more, I started to "ignore" some of the cursing that came out by accident...otherwise I would keep focusing my attention on this behavior. Once again, they are "special" teens... In a regular class I would not tolerate it. I have a high school class and only rarely do I hear an accidental curse. I just look at the student when this happens and he apologizes and doesn't repeat it. If I had a student continuously cursing, I would tell him to go to the study room and would write him down. The principal would have to support this because school regulations are clear about what to do with this kind of behavior. Can't you do the same thing?
     
  7. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    May 23, 2008

    I would love to do the same thing. My school has clearly stated regulations about all behaviors. The problem comes when you write them up. If I wrote studentst up for cursing I would have to write certain students up everyday. If I did this than I would get a visit from the principal or AP. They would sit me down and accuse me of trying to keep the students from succeeding. They would claim that I write the students up because I don't want them in my class or have something against them. Would they follow the proceedures set down as consequences for this behavior? No. They would take the students word when they said they didn't curse. The would believe the students when they said that I didn't like them and that's why I wrote them up. Basically they would call me a liar and they would (and have) tell the students that I'm trying to hinder them and that I want to fail them. Then, the student would come back to me and announce this in front of this entire class. Instead of solving the problem, writing them up makes it worse. I know. All of this has happened to me on multiple occasions. Believe me. I'm an intellegent person. I learned pretty quickly that you have to handle everything in the classroom at my school because the support just isn't there. The administrators pit the students against the teachers. Their actions then pit us against them. The superintendent yells at the administrators in front of the teachers and that pits them against the each other. I know...I should just leave and I will...as soon as I get my certification classes finished.
     
  8. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

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    May 23, 2008

    That sounds pretty insane to me. I hope not all schools are like that? Teachers deserve respect to be able to do a good job. I am not saying that we don't have similar situations in here...oh, we do!
    I hope you get to teach at a better school next year!

    Just a few more things...
    Did the parents, who you spoke with, say that their children denied cursing?
    What would a teacher profit in telling such a lie? No one questions this?
    If they don't believe your word in the cursing, how can they believe that your grades are fair? Are you pressured to pass the students?
     
  9. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    May 23, 2008

    Oh boy am I ever. I get guilt tripped into passing them or giving them extra credit so they can pass and play sports. They even call me in the middle of the summer asking that I give extra work. Why should I do extra work when the student didn't do what they were supposed to in the first place?
    When I spoke with the student's parents they didn't say much. They never do. Most of them simply grunt and say they will talk to them. All of the teachers here wonder the same thing. Why would we lie about what a student did? Why would we try to get them out of class when we bend over backwards to help them out? Could it simply be that we are trying to teach them that there are consequences for their actions? There are more things to learn than are simply contained in a book.
    This is why I want to figure out a way to handle cursing and other behavior problems in my classroom because, if I don't handle it no one will. If I try to involve the administration then I get "in trouble" for doing so. I get labeled as a bad teacher.
    Honestly, I've worked at a variety of places but I've never gotten "in trouble" like a three year old. However, that's how we're treated, as if we're students too.
     
  10. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    May 23, 2008

    It sounds like your work environment is obviously a nightmare to be in. I don't know how long it will be until you're done with your degree, in the mean time i would consider how much you really need to put yourself through all of this. It doesn't sound like the administration must care very much about swearing or atleast enforcing it. I would also wonder how united the teachers are in the building. I'm sure your classroom isn't the only one with the issue. How are they handling it? I would say either they aren't because they already know administration doesn't enforce it or they are lying to you and telling you they don't have a problem.

    If this is your first time working in a school setting I would beware. School staff can be very clicky, especially in a small town. You may be an easy target being a new teacher. Unfortunatly some people never grow up, even those who would like to teach our children. Ironic, isn't it?

    My suggestion for you in the meantime is to not make a big deal out of the swearing. The students continue to do it because 1. they know it gets to you, and 2. they can see and sense the disunity in the school. they are teenagers, they like to see the drama unfold and push their limits.

    A suggestion would be to try and praise in a more casual way when someone uses an alternative expression. You could say, thanks David for saying that maturly. I appreciate it. You can say it positively and not sarcastically. Just a thought.
     
  11. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

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    May 23, 2008

    How long until the school year ends? Will you teach in the same school next year? I hope not!
    All the best for you. Emily Bronte (like her books :)) gave you great advice.
     
  12. smilingteacher

    smilingteacher Rookie

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    May 23, 2008

    I call parents on swearing. If they continue I make them write a two things.

    What was your behavior?

    How are you going to change your behavior?

    Refusal to do so gets them sent to the teacher next door.
    If they do none of this I suspend them.
     
  13. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    May 27, 2008

    Oh to have such power. If I could suspend them then maybe they would respect me. Then again, if I could do anything. They know that we have no power to give them in school detention or suspend them. We can't even give them silent lunch or after school detention (because we don't have those, though they have been suggested over and over). The students know that all I can do is write them up and hope it isn't lost in a mound of paperwork.
     
  14. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    May 27, 2008

    Maybe this isn't a battle you should fight. I agree with Mamacita as far as making them aware that cursing is generally looked down on in any kind of adult, educated world (maybe not in construction or sanitation), but it might not be worth it to try stopping it in the classroom. Is this really your primary problem with these students?
     
  15. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Jun 2, 2008

    Have them write this 50 times:

    By golly, that darned Mrs _____ caught me saying those dang bad words again. Shoot! Now I have to write these blasted sentences and I don't know how in the heck I'm going to get them done. Aw, fiddlesticks.
     
  16. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Jun 12, 2008

    Becky, I've taught in a place like your school where it was best just to keep the discipline problems in your own classroom.

    It's not easy, but you do have some control over things in your classroom that your cursing kid doesn't.

    1. Logistics. He's trying to disrupt, so put him in a place that minimizes his disruption. My favorite is off to the side, surrounded by serious students. (Keep him away from anything that he can destroy.)

    2. Your response. He's expecting you to give him negative attention and stop teaching. So, throw him a curve ball. First, instead of saying anything, wander next to his seat and begin teaching from that exact spot. Smile benignly at him, like teaching from his desk is the most normal thing in the world. When his behavior improves, wander away, then wander back when cursing begins again. Me, I always wandered everywhere around the room and used a kid as a recorder at the overhead projector. Kids thought I could be anywhere in the clasroom, and I could. This proximity might discourage poor the kid's poor behavior, but it also gives you an opportunity for a curve ball: positive reinforcement. You're so close to him, he's got to be doing something good, even if it's just putting pen to paper. Catch him at it and praise him quietly and honestly. He won't know what's hit him.

    3. Personal connection. When kids enter the classroom strike up conversations about them based on their outside interests. How's your knee feeling after practice? You and your friends are in a band, right? Do this with all kids, but make sure you catch the curser once or twice a week. Making that connection can decrease cursing and other behavior, too.

    4. Document the heck out of everything you do. Keep a special file for just this kid. Write down all the things you've tried. Write down the date you changed his seat. Write the number of curses, the words, and what your response was. Create a tick sheet that you can mark up during a class with just a quick pen scribble to note the curse word and the number of times in a class period. Get a good week's worth of data. THEN, at the end of a class on Friday, show the kid his diary. Explain that the two of you will be calling Mom or Dad after the bell rings. Let him watch you write the referral (or have it pre-written, if you don't have time). Include your documentation on the referral. Have him sign it. You can stick it back in his file and send it to the office if he messes up again, or you can send it right away. You also might want to include some positive thing on the referral, too. Something like, even though Curser often disrupts class with his words and negative attitude, Curser shows remarkable insight when he explains the novel's theme. Everyone who sees the referral will know you're trying to see the postitive bits in the kid, not just the negative. That documentation is your ticket, though. It shows your admin. that you've tried and spent hours on this kid, but he's still cursing.

    Good luck, Becky. I've been there. It's not easy. Try banding together with other teachers in your area as well. You can form your own justice squad. :)

    However tempting, though, I encourage you not to use writing as a punishment. Math, maybe, but not writing. :)

    Diane
     
  17. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    Jun 12, 2008

    Thanks, those are some good ideas. I know that I need to move around a bit more. I'm still a bit uncomfortable in the classroom when I'm teaching. I guess that comes with time. I tend to stand in the front of the class or walk back and forth across the front.
    Again, that's for all of the good ideas everyone. These are some things I need to look at when planning for next year.
     
  18. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Jun 13, 2008

    Wow! You can't give out detentions or anything?? My gosh, that is my only saving grace. The kids hate having their lunch taken away, and just the mention of it is usually enough to get kids to start behaving.
     
  19. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    Jun 16, 2008

    Nope, we can't do anything besides write them up (even then, nothing happens when we do). That's why I'm looking for some things I can do in the classroom. Some of the teachers make them do push-ups if they curse but I know that wouldn't fly in my classroom. They wouldn't do it. Usually it's the male teachers who can get them to do things like that as a punishment for cursing.
     
  20. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Becky, I was thinking back to my difficult first years and I remembered this gem:

    Go to the coach.

    Do these cussing kids play sports? If so, you have them. Go to the coach, smile, introduce yourself, and explain your problem with the kid.

    It's a beautiful thing to sip iced tea and watch the cursing kids run laps from your classroom window. Imagine them cussing while they run. Sip more iced tea. Ahh.
     
  21. ahsila

    ahsila Companion

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    Jun 24, 2008

    I realize this probably won't work in your case, but it might be worth mentioning. I had a student a few years back that was fond of the "f-bomb" and used it in nearly every sentence he spoke (his favorite was telling people to "shut the f--- up"). It got so bad, other students were complaining. I'm not a fan of suspension or time-out (most of my kids think of it as a vacation) so I called his parents and they told me that I had their permission to do whatever I needed to in order to get through to him (just to cover my butt, I asked that they also let the administration know). The next day, I arranged for another teacher to stay in the writing lab with the rest of my class and when student X questioned this, I very calmly told him to "shut the f--- up." For the rest of the class period, that was the only response he got from me. I used that word more in those 50 minutes than I ever have or ever will (and as awful as it is to admit, I kind of enjoyed giving him a taste of his own medicine), but I'll be darned if it didn't work. Before he left, he told me he didn't realize how much it would hurt to have someone say that to him and the he wouldn't do it anymore. He still slipped up every now and then, but when he slipped, he apologized immediately and let it drop.
    Again, I don't know that it would work in your situation, but if there is some way you could show the students how disrespectful it is, they might realize civilized people don't typically speak that way. If you know you would never be able to do that, maybe you can read this a few times and live vicariously through my experience. :p
     
  22. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Jun 24, 2008

    I love it ahsila!
     
  23. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    Jun 24, 2008

    Glad it worked. It could backfire on you though. All you need is one student in the room to complain to the administration, or for it to get back to parent who complains to the administration or worse, and you are in big trouble.
     
  24. Historyteaching

    Historyteaching Cohort

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    If I wrote up every student that said a curse word in my classes I'd be doing it the whole time or many times during the 50 minute period. I just don't have time nor does the administration. I 'save' the write ups for something bigger, like when a student cussed ME out. Most of the time I say watch your language and they apologise and usually switch wordage...a few have just tried to whisper their story and cuss words (lol, like I still couldn't hear them or something, high schoolers aren't THAT good at whispering). I just don't focus on it unless it is at me, as I'd mentioned or if it disrupts the class and is some tirade outburst. I usually give them a glare or comment and it stops.
    I do know of a 7th grade history teacher who had no profanity as one of her rules. She posted her rules on poster board up on the wall..the no cussing was #10. Each time someone said a curse word, she would point to the #10 rule and the student would have to read it outloud. It got so that the students would 'police' themselves and if they heard a bad word would announce Awwww You gotta read #10!! The students worked well with this. Who knows in what situations this would/wouldnt work.
     
  25. TX Teacher

    TX Teacher Rookie

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    Jul 14, 2008

    In my district, if I refer a student for cursing in class they get a ticket within 2 days and have to report to court. After community service or paying fines, they usually don't curse anymore in class. I am so thankful that I work in a district that supports the teachers. I don't have any advice, but I wish you luck!
     
  26. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Hi, I know this thread was from awhile ago, but I need more advice! I have one 9th grader who keeps swearing, and I'm trying to think what to do. When going over my syllabus/rules on the first day, I went over that though they may swear with their friends, that it is not considered appropriate language in a classroom. I told them they will need to learn how to use respectable and appropriate language to succeed in life and that repeated swearing in class shows me that they need to work on their vocabulary.

    Most of my students are great and I don't think I expected this to be an issue so soon in the year - but there is this one boy who swears constantly! What should I do?

    I originally planned on having them write an essay or some type of other vocabulary building exercise, but I don't actually have an essay/exercise planned right now (the first weeks are insane!), and I need to enforce something now with him.

    I'd love to do detention, but this school is very chatioc and classes run from 7am-6:30pm, with every kid having their own schedule, so there is no time for detention, nor a place (I travel between 4 classrooms).

    Suggestions??

    p.s. I'm a first-year teacher and trying my darndest.... :)
     
  27. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    I'm still at a loss with the cursing. There are so many great suggestions here but many of them require the cooperation of your administration and so many of us teachers don't have that. I liked the idea of pointing to the rule and having the students read it.
    Some of the teachers here charge the students 25 cents for each time they curse. Some of them make them do push ups. My question is. What do you do when they refuse? They will refuse. Then you write them up and nothing happens. Right now, I simply tell them their language isn't appropriate about a million times a day.
     
  28. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think you're likely spending far more energy on this than is worthwhile. If you never get this student to stop cursing or even restrict it to "appropiate" locations, but you teach him English well, you'll be successful. Cursing and being appropriate are more parenting issues than educational ones. It's the parents who should be teaching this, not teachers, at least as a first course. Certainly you can set a general rule encouraging appropriateness in the classroom, but judge your success by whether everyone knows the rule, not whether they follow it. In another situation -- a job interview or somesuch -- they'll remember the appropriate action.

    I admit, I have something of an issue with the rule in the first place. If they swear in class and their parents don't care, and their classmates don't care, then are you limiting their freedom of speech simply because you're in charge and don't like what they're saying? What do you think is the limit of how you may permissibly set rules on their speech? Could you, for example, decide that it is against the rules to utter the word "broccoli" specifically, or any green vegetable generally, on pain of being sent to detention or suspended? The general justification for speech codes is that certain speech can disrupt the classroom. If you didn't react, I suspect most cursing would be generally ignored by the rest of the students and thus, not disruptive.
     
  29. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 10, 2008

    Personally, I'd do a one time adjustment of the classroom rules.

    Don't just let the swearing slide ... and definitely don't keep ineffectively repeating yourself to try to stop the behavior. To keep a power position you have to be the one to revamp the expected conduct in the class. Perhaps start with an intro that you've decided to restate your classroom rules to fit what's most comfortable for you, as the teacher.

    I wouldn't worry so much about the "minor" swear words in High School. Don't give them specific permission to say them, but specifically make the f-word a classroom crime.

    ie: No racial slurs (which includes the n-word in any context), no sexual harassment (which includes the f-word in any context), no physical or verbal violence. Any violations will be an automatic principals referral on the first infraction.

    I would think that sexual, racial & violent behavior violations would be easy for you to justify to your administration as warranting a referral.

    p.s. This comes from my experience working with adults - not high schoolers ... but it may help.
     
  30. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Sep 10, 2008

    I strongly disagree. I find cursing to be offensive, and I am sure many others do as well. If you do not try to correct it, then you are condoning it. As the teacher, it is your right to demand that their language is not offensive to yourself, or your students. The cursing is not condusive to a positive, and encouraging classroom environment.

    Have you called the parents?
     
  31. KAM

    KAM Rookie

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    Sep 18, 2008

    I think the main problem is the fact that the administration doesn't back you up as the teacher, and gives the impression that you are not effective if students are cursing in your class. I can't believe that they just throw your worksheets on the floor in an act of defiance.

    It all has to do with the tone the administration sets, and unfortunately, if things are this out of hand with your students because they don't respect you, and they know the administration doesn't back up your disciplinary efforts, I am not sure what else you can do.

    At my Catholic high school if our girls swore, not only would they get a detention on the spot for it, but many of the nuns would pull the girl out of class and have her kneel in the hallway outside for the rest of the period.
     
  32. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 18, 2008

    How about getting them to write a letter of apology?
     
  33. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Sep 23, 2008

    When I taught in Montreal the Quebecois students would swear in English without even thinking it was swearing. I once had a student drop the F-bomb in the middle of a class presentation she was giving about Napoleon. And she was one of my best students.

    It's definitely an all or nothing issue. Either treat it like it's no big deal or deal with it effectively and consistantly every time it happens. If you work at a school where the students aren't 'allowed' to swear but do it all the time regardless with hardly any consequences it's probably a good indicator that you should find a better school.
     

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