You’re Going to Get Me in Trouble

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


The guest teacher (substitute) wasn’t in the first hour freshman class for a full fifteen minutes before one student acted in an inappropriate way. Following that school’s discipline policy of one warning, two warnings and three you are out, the guest teacher gave the student verbal warning number one. About fifteen minutes later he activated a similar behavior and elicited warning number two.

This young high school student’s reaction upon hearing warning number two? With folded arms and hostile body posture he sneered at the adult in charge and loudly accused, “You’re going to get me in trouble!”

Her reaction was classic Teacher Talk. “No I’m not going to get you in trouble. But you might. Fifteen minutes after class began you chose a behavior and I gave you a warning. After another few minutes you chose a similar behavior and I gave you warning number two. We have about thirty minutes left in class this morning. I hope you will decide to stay with us. However, during that time if you decide to chose another behavior like the first two, you will have decided to have me write you up for in school suspension (ISS.)

Can you guess this student’s reaction? Glaring at her, he responded, “See, I knew you were going to get me in trouble!”

Quality Teacher Talk went right over this young man’s head. He did not own his choices or the outcomes of the behavior he was choosing. His victim language (You’re doing it to me.) has him looking elsewhere for responsibility and blame. He has not yet learned to look within or use language that points him in the direction of self-responsibility.

So how do we help him? How do we encourage him to give up the victim stance and take ownership for his choices and the outcomes that follow? Keep talking to him the same way the guest teacher did and follow through with outcomes.

If you are talking to students like this guest teacher did you are a rare adult in their lives. Keep doing it. They need you and others like you. It could require many repetitions of this style of language before some kids get it. Keep on keeping on with self-responsible language that points out where students have choice.

If you are alone in your building with this awareness and language skill it will take longer. If others in your building believe and talk in a similar way it will take less time. Encourage others at your site by sharing your Teacher Talk Advantage book. It is to your ADVANTAGE to do so. Allow others to overhear you speaking this way. Set up a Teacher Talk Advantage workshop for your staff. We are available to help. Become a Teacher Talk Advantage Facilitator and train your entire staff. (More info on training of trainers on our website at

Never give up. This child is worth it.


Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: and


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