Dealing with the Bananas, Oranges and Coconuts in the Classroom!

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Professional Development For Teachers | 0 comments

If you are looking for teacher staff development ideas, classroom management is always a good idea. For example, when I was a young teacher, I couldn’t distinguish between a student who was a chronic discipline issue and a student who just made an honest mistake.  I dealt with every problem as if it was a very serious issue.  Full confession:  they weren’t all serious problems.

At 212 CreativEd, when we conduct a teacher staff development on discipline, we introduce the idea of looking at students in different groups, based on how often they misbehave. We named these groups of kids bananas, oranges and coconuts.  We found it helpful to organize our thinking this way, to help determine which problems were very serious and needed immediate attention, which problems may need a consequence, and which behaviors could be ignored or just handled with something low key, like “The Look” that teachers can give to students to let them know their behavior is unacceptable.  Let’s talk a little about each of the groups of students, and what works with them to change their behavior.

Let’s start by talking a little about the coconuts!

Teacher Staff Development: Coconut Kids

The kids in the Coconut category are the kids of which you will have the least number. These kids frequently are in trouble.  Not to say that these are bad kids. They may have disruptive behavior, but they are good kids, maybe in difficult circumstances.

I have learned to have a soft spot for these kids.  Most often, in my experience, they often come from some tough circumstances outside of school. We don’t always know what those circumstances are, but perhaps they come from a home where they experience anger and dysfunction. These may be the kids that we may want to give our love  and attention to the least, but probably need it the most.  

Even if you are their classroom teacher for an entire year, there may not be a lot you can do by yourself to help these kids long term, but you still have to manage their behavior, they still have to follow rules, and not be disruptive or disrespectful.  

The good news is these kids aren’t the norm.  Most kids follow the rules most of the time, and there are not many, probably less than 5%, of kids in a school that may be a Coconut.  For these kids, don’t hesitate to reach out to the teacher, principal or social worker for ideas and support.

As far as changing behavior, often what works one day with a Coconut won’t work the next day. Occasionally, you have to do some creative thinking with these kids, because even if they get suspended for a few days, they will be back in your classroom!  You have to be the adult, and welcome them back.  

If problems continue, you need to still be patient and understanding with them, and maybe find a creative solution to a problem. Working together as a school team to come up with some creative solutions is another great idea for teacher staff development. Since each Coconut kid is so unique, there are no quick fixes or strategies that work every time.  In the rare instance you have a Coconut kid, ask the teacher, social worker and principal for constant ideas and support.

Teacher Staff Development: Oranges

Next we have the kids that misbehave, but only occasionally. This is where the kids that are like Oranges live.  These are kids that occasionally get into some mischief or misbehave a little bit every year, and may need a consequence once in a while to remind them of the rules, but after they are reminded, they usually are fine. 

When dealing with the Oranges, we have to consider Rules, Values, and Consequences (another great idea for teacher staff development!).  Let’s start by talking about rules. 

Whether you are responsible for creating classroom rules or there are school-wide rules are already established, keep these tips in mind:  don’t have too many rules, and make sure to phrase them positively. For example, instead of “Don’t Run”, say, “Always Walk”, instead of saying “Don’t shout” the rule could be “Use your inside voice at all times”

Safety, Respect and Responsibility

Many schools have some sort of PBIS system in place, with school-wide rules such as safety, respect and responsibility. These are great ideas, but I would argue that they aren’t rules, they are what we would call values. These are principles upon which rules should be based.  Knowing the difference between values and rules is very important and very powerful when it comes to enforcing the rules.

To tell the difference between a value and a rule, consider using the Empty Chair test.  Simply look at an empty chair, and imagine a student sitting there.  Picture yourself telling this imaginary student “Do respect!”  Can they do “Respect”?  Nope, they can’t.  Because “Respect” is a value, not an observable behavior.  

Respect may mean different things to different students. To one student, respect may mean “I respect my elders and respect authority, so I don’t’ talk back.”   To another student, respect may mean, “I respect myself, and I don’t allow anyone to talk to me in a way I don’t like, and will defend myself if needed.”

Respect is a value, what we also need are rules. Rules show everyone how we show respect in the lunchroom.  Respect might mean respect for property, so the rule would be “we always clean up after ourselves.“ 

Ok, can you look at the student in the empty chair and say “Clean up after yourself?”  Can you see that happening?  Yes, absolutely. Then it’s a good rule.

But Rules and Values have to go hand in hand.  If a student is just given the value, like “Do respect”, it can be confusing.  If a student is just given the rule “Stop running”, not only is that worded negatively, but the reason for not running isn’t given. This could turn into an argument with a student.  So, how do you get over this dilemma?  Like this…

When a student is not complying with a rule, you

Remind them of the value, and then enforce the rule. 

For example, if a student is running in the hallway, and one of the school-wide values is safety and the rule is “always  walk”, you would remind them of the value “Safety” and enforce the “always walk” rule like this:

“Hey Billy, remember, we are safe around here. I don’t want you hurt, so remember, always walk.”

This works well to stop getting into arguments with students by giving them the “Why” as well as the “What”.

Teacher Staff Development: Bananas

The last group of kids we want to talk about are the bananas. Banana kids never, or rarely, misbehave.  I would love it if I had an entire classroom of bananas! One way to get more bananas growing in your lunchroom is to spread some sunshine! Give the bananas what they need to achieve a state of calm and enjoyment.    We achieve this in three ways…

  1. By having well-thought-out routines
  2. By building rapport 
  3. By having fun  

This is where most of your attention, creativity and problem solving skills should come into play. What can you do to have the kids feel safe, comfortable, happy and calm in the lunchroom? First let’s talk about having well-thought-out routines.


Routines are important because we can control them.  We have kids that come to school downshifted because perhaps even before they came in to school, they were shamed, threatened or embarrassed. We can’t do anything about any of that, but when they are in your classroom, you can help them become calm by doing something you may not have thought was important.  Be predictable!  

Routines in the classroom can help calm students down, because the routines make the environment predictable, and therefore safe.  We can’t control what goes on in kids’ lives outside of our school. We don’t know and can’t control what happens to them before and after lunchtime. But we can create an environment in the lunchroom where kids feel welcomed, and can relax and be calm. 

Not only well thought out routines, but routines that are carefully taught to the kids. Is everything clear to everyone in the classroom?  

  • Does every child know how they are supposed to come in every day? 
  • Where do they go if they want to order a hot lunch? 
  • What do they do with their  homework assignments?
  • What do they do if they were sick and missed a day or two?
  • What do they do if they need a pencil sharpened, or need extra supplies?

The list goes on, and as the classroom teacher you should think through everything, and then TEACH IT TO THE KIDS!

I know this teacher staff development may sound like Classroom Management 101, but teachers new to the field need to hear this, and sometimes veteran teachers think they taught the kids, but the years tend to blend into one another after a couple of decades, at least they did for me! 


Perhaps the best way to spread sunshine is to build rapport with the students.  This doesn’t mean you have to become their friend. But everyone wants to be seen. It is a basic human need to be seen, to be recognized, to have someone notice you are there and care.  

If this does not come naturally to you, maybe just notice things at first.  If a student gets new glasses, make a comment–”Hey, new glasses?  Nice!”

Smile at everyone as they come into the classroom.  Greet them with a smile and a warm hello. Greet them by name.  Tell them it’s good to see them, and mean it!

If you have a student who is really quiet, it’s nice to make some extra effort with them as well.  Perhaps a little bit over a longer period of time, say 15-30 seconds a day over a three week period, commit to saying something to that quiet kid.  Maybe at first just a “Hi Billy”  or “Hey Billy, did you have a good weekend?” then maybe a little more the next day.  “Hey Billy, I saw you reading comic books on a break the other day, who’s your favorite superhero?”  and so on. Just a little bit, every day, for a long time.  If it’s time spent on a child, it’s time well spent.


How about having some fun!  Bananas love fun!  If you have a microphone in your classroom, can you do 60 second joke time once in a while?  Have kids come up and tell a quick joke! 

I don’t know your set up, but could you play a fun G-rated movie during as a reward? Maybe take an hour of your day the day before a holiday break?  I know they wouldn’t see all of it in an hour, but kids have seen every movie out there numerous times, it’s really just for the fun of it, for the break in routine.

By the way, to have a  reward really make an impact, it should be a surprise, and have market value.  So, what if one day, unannounced, the teacher says “Everyone has been walking in the hallways and doing all of their homework for weeks now. Let’s celebrate that by…” and have something the students like to do. Can you do an extra recess (clear it with the principal and the other teachers on your team first of course). Can you have a homework free week? Can you do a movie day? Or you can “Sit anywhere you want” day?  Have fun and reinforce to the students that they are getting this fun because of their good behavior.

Those are some ideas for dealing with the Bananas, Oranges and Coconuts you will encounter in the classroom. If you need some teacher staff development on topics like classroom management or other topics, check us out at