A positive and effective classroom discipline plan can sometimes seem out of reach to a teacher who is struggling every day...she just can't figure out how to get from here to there...here being challenged, confronted and worn down daily...there being a room where she just gets to teach ("...is that so much to ask?!")
As with any journey, we start with preparation and then go at it one step at a time.
Not every school building has a classroom discipline plan, but every one of them should. One of the biggest frustrations a teacher can face is never knowing where the line is...when does the principal expect a poor behavior choice to be escalated to the office, and when does he expect the teacher to handle something in the room?
When is it OK to ask for help, and when will struggles with classroom behavior management be considered a sign of weakness?
Many principals are uncomfortable drawing a line, though. They're human, and humans in general like to avoid conflict. Lines mean conflict...as soon as one is drawn, sure enough a student will step over it and that means dealing with parents and suspensions and all sorts of classroom discipline plan items that the principal would really rather not do.
Just like a teacher, a principal's fondest wish is to just be able to do his job...just be able to, well...principal, as in develop teachers and celebrate student achievement.
Enforcing a line is sure-fire way to spend a lot of time doing unpleasant tasks. So keeping things hazy gives principals some wiggle room to avoid conflict in certain situations. This may help them on a case-by-case basis, but long-term, problems snowball as kids figure out just how much they can get away with.
There's only so much you can do to encourage a building's staff or principal to create or adopt a rational classroom discipline plan. Who we are concerned about here is you...and you can be successful even without strong support from the office. You may have to force others to do their jobs on some issues, as we'll cover in this section, but it can be done, and done effectively.
Positive classroom behavior management is possible for every teacher. Which brings us to the first step...
Sometimes it seems like every third sentence I speak during the day is to set an expectation. Early in the year, these expectations are heavily weighted toward behavior until students get used to the routine.
Expectations create a feedback loop. Without expectations, you are reacting to issues that arise...in practice, it sounds like a constant chorus of "stop that!"
With expectations, you are reminding students that you already established the proper behavior, they aren't meeting it and here comes the consequence. Calm, deliberate, effective.
After a few days with your class, you'll be able to start anticipating the issues that will arise in different situations. You'll know:
Anticipation allows you to set expectations that address inevitable behavior issues and, when necessary, intervene before a situation heads in the entirely wrong direction. It's a delicate balance sometimes...when to steer clear of a situation that will end in trouble, and when to set an expectation around that situation to help a child learn self-control.
These articles will help with that.
Ultimately, one of the major goals of teaching (and parenting) a child from pre-school to graduation is to create an adult who understands that:
As a teacher involved with an effective classroom discipline plan, you are critical in getting this accountability piece through their heads. For most of a child's life, they experience consequences that are enforced upon them by others, including you.
Eventually, a teacher will begin to see children internalize this lesson and hold themselves accountable for choices. Better yet, you'll see children learning to understand that consequences follow bad choices, so it's best to make the proper choice up front.
This only comes in glimpses, especially in the lower grades. But your work is so important, and it all makes an impact in both the short- and long-term. These articles will given you plenty to work with as you help our children grow into responsible, self-controlled, disciplined adults.
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Your School's Discipline Plan
How to work with building-wide plans
Expectations and Positive Classroom Discipline
Setting clear expectations is the first critical step
Anticipation and Positive Classroom Discipline
Act, don't react...anticipating discipline issues
Applying Positive Classroom Discipline - Part 1
Holding children accountable for their choices
Applying Positive Classroom Discipline - Part 2
Getting your pack to follow the right leader (you!)
Applying Positive Classroom Discipline - Part 3
The recess challenge - discipline outside the classroom
The Ultimate Classroom Discipline Plan
Students holding themselves accountable for choices
ALL Effective Classroom Discipline Articles
Go to the full listing of all effective classroom discipline articles