Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Classroom Issues/Discipline
Working with students for the past several years has raised many questions when it comes to discipline. Now only a year away from becoming a licensed teacher and with classroom experience in hand I begin to wonder what my main concern will be. Is it actually the discipline or how the classroom is run that brings on the issues of discipline? Discipline as defined in Webster’s Dictionary is "field of learning, training, and conditioning to produce obedience and self-control, as a result of punishment...” We are teaching and training our students and yes, we expect that our rules and codes of conduct produce obedience and self-control. But are the punishments that go with discipline really effective. Therefore, the question that I must determine as a teacher is what techniques and skills must I research and need to know in order to keep my classroom under control?
What Makes Discipline Difficult
The two most important issues are the lack of support from the school administration and parents. Jim Garbarino, a Cornell University Professor and author of Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment states2, that there’s a feeling among educators that “erosion of adult authority” in today’s society makes it much more difficult for teachers and other educators to do their job. It seems that teachers have to make and establish their own rule of authority because parents and adult figures are not teaching the traditional cultural foundations for the students to build on. When parents depend on the teacher and the administration to handle discipline with no backing from them, the students are more likely to continue bad behavior and challenge the teachers. We all know that students should know the basic concepts of respect and self-control, but when it is not taught or modeled in their home environment, then the training of good behavior becomes the teachers’ responsibility on top of the teaching process.
|The National Education Association is a great link to for reviewing discipline issues and many other topics. The greatest thing about reading this is that you begin to find out good teachers, think alike. When you read you will see that you have probably already been using many of the techniques.|
A non-supportive school administration will make it very hard to establish a strong and effective classroom management plan. It really is pointless to send a disruptive student to the office, to only have them back in your classroom ten minutes later. As a teacher you should make your classroom management plan very clear to your principal and other school officials that would handle discipline issues. Let them know what you expect from your students and help them to understand your technique of running the classroom. Be sure they are willing to support your beliefs and know that they will follow through should they be needed.
Classroom management is important. If you have your classroom strategies down in writing, are consistent in following them and make sure you always have more planned than not enough, then your students will be less likely to find time to cause disruptions. From the start of the first day of school and for the entire school year, you must take control of your classroom. Students, parents, and your administration should know right from the start where you stand on running your classroom.
There are many styles and techniques used in classroom management and each individual teacher must set their own procedures, routines, goals and values. Strong techniques that are win-win situations and based on simple principles of organization and cooperative learning include:
Always have Lesson Plans Ready
By being prepared and having things ready the night before gives the teacher a stronger hand on being able to be available to the students and parents as soon as they walk in the door every morning. Why could this work?
- Students can be greeted every day the same way.
- The teacher will beware of which student is in a good mood or bad mood. This will mentally prepare the teacher for the situations to come.
- Students are on task with the classroom objectives for the day and everyday.
Develop Monthly Learning Groups
Each group developed for the month, work each assignment as a team. They are responsible to complete the daily objectives and projects as a group. Each group has a rubric to follow that is based on points that covers cooperation, behavior and objectives. A group cooperative certificate is issued for the most successful group of the month and a teacher luncheon is earned. This way of classroom management could work because:
- Students learn to work together as a team.
- Students get to learn different cultural styles and beliefs.
- Having a group focus channels excess energy into productive learning as a group because of the responsibly level of each team member.
- Different levels of strengths and weaknesses help them learn to work new strategies to get the work done.
- Positive peer pressure to accomplish the group goals by following the rubric is very strong.
- Student’s work harder to earn the end of the month reward.
This style of learning is discussed in-depth through the “Kagan Style of Cooperative Learning”3 but the key to group learning would be the sense of accomplishments and responsibility that each student shares by helping others in areas they are not strong in. And lastly, it would give the teacher a stronger handle on the sure of harder to handle students. Regrouping the students on a monthly basis will also build stronger control for designing groups that will help different students at different levels.
Just as students and administration need to know your classroom management techniques, so do parents. If you want parents to support you and any possible discipline issues that may arise then they need to know what your expectations are. You can do this by:
- Going over and sharing expectations, procedures, routines and style during open house.
- Develop a parent, student, teacher contract that will be given out the first day of school. This needs to be signed by all parties.
- Develop a classroom newsletter that keeps parents informed of what is happening.
- Design a website so parents can contact you.
- Offer a monthly family night get together but fun and educational.
- Offer a parent tutoring night – teach the parents what students are learning.
- Be available to the parents.
One on One Discipline Techniques
Although, classroom management might one key to running a well-organized class, there will be discipline issues that need to be addressed. How to handle different situations are challenged everyday for example, Thomas Gordon, creator of Teacher Effectiveness Training did not agree with Canter’s Assertive Discipline Concept. But, both techniques have been effective in different ways because no two students are alike and each student needed to be handled in a different manner.
Many techniques will be learned strategies that you as a teacher will develop as you become more versed at teaching. But I also believe that based on your values and ethics in the classroom and possibly your parenting skills all of these will play a key role on how certain discipline situations will be handled. Here is a list of some positive discipline techniques, some learned from my readings and some developed through experience.
- Remind, Don't Scold
- Redirect, with a reminder to what is at task. This can be done as a whole class or on the individual level.
- Group example: “Class the bell has rung, you should be in your groups working on your journal entry.”
- Individual example: "Mary, please redirect your attention to the front of the room."
- Tattle Tale Can
- This is the most annoying issue in the classroom. Use redirection.
- Example: First, ask the student if the person involved is actually injured or needs assistance, if no, then direct the student to write down the problem and put it into a can. At the end of the day ask anyone if they have any issues. Most of the time the issue has been forgotten.
- Just in case it has not - Tell the students involved you would like to have a conference. Set it up during recess for no more than 5 minutes. Let the students involved discuss the problem and only offer suggestions that are considered right choices for both of them.
- Hand Signals
- Make the student aware that you know that a wrong choice is being made through a specific hand gesture.
- Example: Mark is sitting sideways in his chair playing with Maria’s paper on Maria’s desk. You quietly look at him and touch your nose so that he knows you need him back on task.
- Don't Threaten or Argue
- Be firm on what is expected. Ask them what the right choice is based on the classroom policy.
- Praise, Praise, Praise
- Make sure that this very important technique is positively incorporated into your classroom.
- Praise is every student’s ultimate goal — make the teacher happy!
- Plan, Plan, Plan
- Over planning will keep the students busy.
- If you do find yourself in a downtime. Turn it into a quick regrouping game: (this example is based on that the class knows "Regroup Time" and what the reward is for participating.)
- Example: Have a group of boxes with different subjects available--they can have basic SOL Questions in them. Call out "Regroup", each group leader will run to the boxes and grab one. Once back at their table the teacher will ask one group to ask another group a question from the box. The group asked will have 10 seconds to answer the question. If correct they win a group point.
Again, There are so many wonderful techniques that can be used and discussed but the most important thing to remember is do they work for you, is it right for the student, and will it work in the classroom. Trial and error makes for a some day-harmonized classroom.
There will always be students and situations that need to be corrected but I do believe that if we run a well managed classroom that is supported by the school administration, and parents, then the classroom will cooperate and run more smoothly. Most importantly by building your curriculum and classroom structure based on goals, routines, procedures and the cooperative learning concept the discipline issues will be minimal and your classroom will be an enjoyable environment where the students want to learn and have fun learning.
Multiple Choice Questions
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- Ellen Flannery, The D Word, September 2005, NEA Libaray from http://www.nea.org/classroom/index.htmlx
- Linda Starr, Education World© Contract for Responsiblity from http://www.nea.org/classroom/index.htmlx
- Discipline by Design from http://www.honorlevel.com
- Prince Georges County, Guide to Cooperative Learning from http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~elc/learning1.html
- Johnson, D., Johnson, R.& Holubec, E. (1998). Cooperation in the classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- Spencer Kagan, Patricia Kyle & Sally Scott, Win-Win Discipline—Strategies for All Discipline Problems, Kagan Publishing
- Judith A. Arter and Jay McTighe, (Sept 14, 2000), Scoring Rubrics in the Classroom: Using Performance Criteria for Assessing and Improving Stdent Performance
- Jane Ed.D. Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn (Mar 30, 2000), Positive Discipline in the Classroom, Revised 3rd Edition: Developing Mutual Respect, Cooperation, and Responsibility in Your Classroom (Positive Discipline)