Tough classroom discipline cases can be very frustrating for any teacher...going it alone can make it even harder. But you don't have to do it all alone; you have resources upon which you can draw...and upon which you should draw.
You need to have a certain attitude when working through classroom discipline issues with principals, counselors, or other administrators or specialists. First, your approach. Two warnings from the field of medicine:
The helpless patient is the one throws himself on the mercy of his doctor, hoping a magic pill to fix all of his problems without any effort on his part.
"Maybe I'll just stay in bed...the behavior in
my classroom seems to be contagious."
The teacher who professes a complete inability to handle a classroom discipline issue and waits for her principal to solve the problem is not living up to her professional responsibilities. If you find the principal in your room every day to work through behavior issues, then you need to be searching for alternative approaches because what you are doing is not working.
Which leads to the next point...
It makes doctors tear their hair out to hear a patient report that they have not gotten any better since the last visit...but they also didn't take the medicine or complete any of the other prescribed cures.
If you are willing to seek input and assistance on classroom discipline issues, then you must be willing to try what is suggested. If you don't try anything different, and still keep complaining about discipline and classroom behavior management issues, then you are simply complaining to get attention. This does not help you, or - more importantly - your students.
Yeah, I know that sounds a little harsh. But it does bring to mind the old saying:
"Don't expect different results from doing
the same thing you've always done."
Now, let's look at the other side of the coin when working with specialists from outside your classroom.
No matter who else is involved, you are the classroom teacher and you own this classroom discipline plan. Unfortunately, you may often find that when you get right down to it, no else really cares about your issue to the extent you would hope. How does this look in reality?
The bottom line is that the behavior-challenged student is really only fully aggravating you and your class every day, not necessarily anyone else...at least not to the same extent. So it can be easy for others to push your problem down the road.
There is only one person who can make it happen for this child and that is you. If you are seeking the assistance of outside administrators or specialists for classroom discipline issues, be prepared to keep up that steady, gentle pressure that eventually forces others to move.
Making it happen applies to all aspects of your classroom discipline plan, not just seeking outside assistance. That means reinforcing the power of the classroom community you have built, leveraging it to influence behavior.
Can classmates really affect classroom behavior? Of course they can...and often more effectively than the teacher (who is, after all, just one person). As I'm fond of saying, children are just small humans, and therefore subject to the same motivations as all people. And we are all dramatically affected by the people in our immediate vicinity.
I challenge you to go into your favorite coffee shop or diner during their busiest time of day and do one thing: Lay on your back on the floor for 15 seconds. That's all.
Now, why don't you want to do that? It's not hurting anyone. You'd do it if the shop were empty.
There's only one reason: the judgment you would feel from other people...even if they were all strangers.
"What's wrong with laying on the floor?"
We can tolerate a lot of things in the 21st century world - strange piercings, wild hair, all manner of clothing - but laying on the floor in a crowd...you cross some kind of unspoken line because you are acting too far outside the norm.
Do you see the point for your classroom discipline plan? Everyone is influenced by the expectations of their local community, and that is true in your own classroom.
The classroom community you have created has certain behavior expectations of themselves (implanted by you). When one member of the crowd steps too far outside that norm, the community grows uncomfortable and the "black sheep" feels that disapproval from the flock.
Obviously the community doesn't keep all students from acting up. And they don't have any influence if they are all in the habit of acting up. But a strong classroom community can influence behavior for the better. A teacher must ensure that she keeps the community informed in order to allow them to fulfill this role. Work with them and they'll ultimately help out...or at least not contribute to an already-challenging classroom discipline situation.
It is this web of community relationships that can make moving desks so powerful for influencing behavior. The landscape of your classroom affects what occurs as dramatically as physical landforms affect wind and water movement. The web of personal relationships and community expectations outlined above are built through the physical links of adjacent desks.
Move them intentionally, as I point out here...never to isolate punitively, always to create a new reality that will help the child better control his behavior (with your help).
The observant and resourceful teacher understands that there are many tools to assist with tough classroom discipline issues, including programs outside the school building. This section will outline many options for positively influencing behavior...take advantage of every opportunity to help out your challenging students.
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