Classroom discipline...this is such a difficult topic. As a teacher who absolutely loves children and loves teaching children, my biggest concern is that I will come across as harsh in this section. And I may, especially to teachers - old or new - who haven't dealt with some of the difficult classroom behavior issues that I'll be discussing.
But I'm willing to take the risk of sounding a bit authoritarian, because this topic is so necessary for new teachers to get a handle on. Classroom management is hard enough...getting your group to function as a team, listen when you need them to listen, behave when lining up, etc.
No need to go old school...we have
much better ways to achieve results
But when a teacher is faced with a student who flat-out "crosses the line" - violence, profanity, disrespect, defiance - day after day, then that teacher goes home beaten up and dispirited every afternoon.
And the effect is cumulative...the longer it continues, the worse you feel - especially if you are not getting any help from the administration in your building.
That's teacher burnout, and it's what drives new teachers out of teaching. And that is what I want to address.
Classroom management is oriented toward the group as a whole, with techniques for addressing individuals who stray a little outside the group (the group being your classroom community). This is kind of like a shepherd moving their flock somewhere and rounding up a few strays who aren't heading the exactly the right direction.
Classroom discipline is for those kids who decide to not only go their own way, they take off for the hills (so to speak)...and often disrupt the rest of the flock in the process.
The word "discipline" can have bad connotations of punishment or severity when used in conjunction with schools and children. But the best definitions of the kind of discipline necessary in the classroom are really the positive synonyms:
Kids want a strong, in-charge teacher. Of course, "strong" and "in charge" must be combined with "caring," "funny," and all the rest of the effective teacher package, but the bottom line is that the kids want a classroom that is organized and orderly because it is a lot less stressful than coming to chaos every day.
TIP: The kids buy into the community you have created in your classroom and you as the leader of that community.
First, it is important to understand that the discipline program outlined in this section cannot stand alone; it must be built upon the foundation of classroom management, which is really the building of your classroom community.
Second, your approach to classroom management creates the positive incentives for students to demonstrate good behavior, while your classroom discipline plan provides the consequences to poor behavior choices. One without the other creates an imbalance and your classroom climate will never be what you hope for.
Remember this: You will have far, far fewer discipline problems if you keep your students engaged in learning. To paraphrase an old maxim: "Idle minds are the gremlin's workshop."
If a child's brain is processing learning, it has much less time to devise sneaky ways to launch spitballs behind your back.
TIP: This is critical: If your building has a discipline plan then you must know it inside and out and follow it to the letter.
My personal approach is on what I have learned over several years of teaching. There are really just three parts to it:
1. Set high expectations
2. Anticipate issues
3. Hold children completely accountable for their choices
These three points are applied over and over again through all situations, as you'll see from the articles in this section, although the application varies depending upon the situation.
The first three sets of articles really should be read in sequence to gain the most-complete understanding of this comprehensive discipline approach.
Assessing building-wide discipline plans
Setting high expectations
Anticipating discipline issues
Holding children accountable - Part 1 (Classroom behavior choices)
Holding children accountable - Part 2 (Reminders, repeat offenders)
Holding children accountable - Part 3 (Outside the classroom)
Children holding themselves accountable
The next section deals with "tough" classroom behavior cases - those students who do not readily respond to the standard day-to-day discipline plan. These situations can be heartbreakingly difficult, but with this in-depth guidance you can see them through to resolution. They should also be read in order.
The articles in the final section are not strictly sequential. They provide an array of options that can be applied depending upon each unique situation.
School resources for tough cases
Implementing effective behavior plans
Involving your classroom community to assist with tough cases
Separating desks to effect behavior choices
Accessing District and non-school programs
After classroom management, classroom discipline (especially for really tough cases) is the largest gap in most education degree curricula, and a student teacher may or may not work with a teacher who really has this critical area mastered. And it is extremely important; if you don't have a handle on discipline, you will not be able to effectively teach.
And effective teaching is what we are all about.
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