Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts on Classroom Discipline

Improve the quality of the environment in which you reside, and everyone will want to be a part of it. 

Why do we teach?  To make a positive difference; to be a positive role model; to serve young people; to make an impact on the next generation.  All admirable reasons, yet the “discipline factor” and inappropriate student behavior often interrupts our teaching.  Well here is my next question.  What are we doing to change the unwanted behaviors into expected behaviors?  Many studies, books and workshops have been done over the years to deal with extinguishing unwanted behaviors…still we deal with this issue.

I don’t pretend to have the answers for all of the problems facing us in the schools today, and I certainly recognize that students are different from even 5, 10 or 20 years ago, yet we still have to take the initiative to address this issue head-on.  I believe we can positively influence the environment where students and teachers work, and we can change the behaviors into those that are conducive to learning.  With that, I will share some from my experiences and hope they are beneficial for you. 

First, if you haven’t read the book FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, I highly recommend it.  It is motivational and will give you some insight into improving morale and productivity. 

As instructional facilitators, we have dreams, visions and pictures in our minds of what we want our classes to look like and how we want them to function.  It’s like standing behind a golf ball on the tee, and in your mind’s eye, seeing where you want the ball to be after the shot you have upcoming.  You picture where you want the ball to go.  I always do this on the golf course, but unfortunately, my swing doesn’t always get me the desired results.  That’s where we as golfers…and teachers…monitor and adjust to the circumstances.

There is no change without ideas and truths, but ideas and truths come wrapped up in people.  Setting the expectations and feeling tone in your classroom and your building…among yourselves and with students and parents…is where we begin to overcome obstacles to win.  Students and faculty alike need to believe in the school’s mission.  They want the feeling of belonging to something that is going somewhere. They want to become better and seek to do so, and need to be recognized for their work efforts.

Whether it is a program or the school’s own philosophy, I believe it is important to connect the following three things to create and maintain a more consistent approach to improving morale and lessening the unwanted behaviors that impede instruction.
1.       Have Staff Buy-In
2.       Student Inclusion = Ownership = Desired Response
3.       Establish School Wide Guidelines for Success.  (Focus on the positive and state them in positive

I understand and completely support discipline policies of a school district. I also understand the need for rules and regulations.  But consider this:  if we can create an environment where good work is recognized (for both staff and students), where opinions and questions are welcomed, where we teach with multiple modalities in mind, where we use differentiated strategies within a classroom, where we engage students, and when we make everyone in the building a valuable “cog in the wheel”…we can head off many of the problems that we have to address after the fact.

Technology is where the students of today are…and where we as teachers need to be to be able to move forward.  No, technology doesn’t replace a good teacher.  We all know that the number one factor for a successful classroom is the efficacy of the teacher.   If technology can help you be more effective, and put you in the same game with the students, don’t you have a better chance to influence how the game will turn out?

Find a path to greatness by relentlessly pursuing the most brutal facts – the tracking and positive changing of data.  Maintain a faith that not only will you survive, but you will prevail.  Remember that perseverance beats optimism every time.  And that a willingness to reach outside of our comfort zone, may just be the pathway to engaging student in the learning and behaviors we want.

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