A teacher cannot begin to teach without an acceptable level of classroom discipline. Maintain classroom discipline, and you will feed the learning process. Classroom discipline comes first.
There are many misconceptions about this topic. First, let's talk about what classroom discipline is not.
Classroom discipline is not:
Classroom management. Read the article on classroom management. It is not Strictly a punishment system.
Nor is it strictly a reward system. No screaming, yelling, or any other confrontational behavior. It's not a list of don'ts, a cure-all for teaching woes, or to eat up valuable class time.
Classroom discipline is: A companion to classroom management, part of a routine class session, and a system to maintain desired behaviors.
Never scream, yell, or be in a student's face. You will not maintain classroom discipline this way. You will only wear out your jaw muscles, get headaches, and be a bundle of nerves at the end of the day.
And then, you will dread tomorrow. In fact, a teacher should practice actively relaxing his or her jaw muscles, and avoid teeth clenching. If you make a note of this throughout the day, you will realize just how much you have a tendency to do these things.
Do not make a list of rules. Students already know them. The school has rules. Rules are a dime a dozen. In fact, if you do not have a list of rules, you will never be held accountable to keep or enforce them yourself! And what if you miss one? Students will bend rules and dare you to enforce them.
Or worse yet. They will break a rule not on your list and then laugh as you cannot enforce a rule that you forgot to write down. So please, just forget a list. If you insist on a list, you can refer to the section just after this one. But please, read the rest of this and think twice.
Classroom discipline starts on the first day, and continues each and every day. The first day of school, begin each class by simply saying that you expect each and every student to be in class, on time, ready to work, and that you expect the utmost respect from them and how they treat each other. Nuff said. That's it. Each and every little rule cannot be written. But all desired behaviors are in that previous statement. Make that statement part of your opening class routine.
But I really like and want a list! Okay. You just heard them!
1) Be in class on time and fully prepared to work.
2) Respect will be given to all parties at all times in this classroom
Your classroom management must be mastered before you can begin to have discipline This needs to be stressed again. Please read the article titled, Classroom Management.
So, what do I do for classroom discipline?
Sorry, there is no one-size-fits-all for classroom discipline. There is no cure-all for classroom discipline. There are no magic words that will solve classroom discipline. No other teacher has the answers for your classroom discipline either. Classroom discipline cannot be taught in your teacher education classes. No matter what you have been told. It is a lie. Nobody is going to give you the skills for classroom discipline except......yourself! This is not a revelation for most of you. If you are reading this article, you have probably read and heard countless cures for classroom discipline. I am one of the few who will tell you the truth.
But there is hope! Meet teachers. Ask questions. Sit in on successful teacher's classrooms. Watch and learn. Realize, however, that every classroom teacher has their own way for classroom discipline. It is only to be used a guide for you. Too many teachers accept what other teachers are doing, implement it, and then wonder why it fails. It fails because each and every teacher, classroom, setting, etc., are different! Glean ideas and try them. You will find ones that work, and ones that don't. Over time, you will develop classroom discipline skills that will transfer your classroom into a fantastic learning environment.
That said, we will not leave it there for classroom discipline. We will try and come up with a few ideas that should be incorporated into every classroom discipline plan.
First, you must realize that real classrooms are not like the movies. You will not change the world. You will not make students behave by just a few tricks. Your students will not all become lifelong learners. The quicker you get this out of your mind, the better. Yes, they are worth striving for. But reality must set in.
Your goal should be for your students to be engaged in the classroom at all times. If your students are all engaged, guess what? You have mastered discipline. Again, classroom management will help you.
This also means accepting certain behaviors sometimes. Not all students need to be quiet at all times. Not all disturbances need to be addressed with punishment. A sharp look, a short comment, a small pause, is really all that is needed. This may be the first you have heard this. This will lower your stress level. You cannot stop teaching for each and every classroom disturbance. Your students MUST realize that you acknowledge an undesirable behavior, but will treat it depending on severity. So we are not really talking about major disturbances, but common annoyances-talking, gum chewing, laughing, etc. Did you know that 99% of the classroom discipline problems you will have involve these minor annoyances? Pick your battles wisely. If you fight, scream, yell, and confront each and every minor classroom discipline annoyance, you will not last a year. You will not be able to teach anything.
Please reread the part of this article on making classroom rules. If you have not made a list, then you can deal with these minor occurrences in a minor way. This is the main reason why you do not want a list with all rules you can think of. With rules you must have consequences. No rule, there is no consequence that you need to do other than acknowledge the disturbance, and move one. So please, again, please forget a list of rules.
What is the best way to deal with these minor classroom disturbances?
Call home. This is by far the most time-tested reliable way to deal with minor classroom problems. But here is a HUGE word of caution. This phone call should not be the first time this parent has heard from you. You must make some sort of contact with parents first. This can be emails or phone calls. At the beginning of the school year, take 30 minutes each night and make phone calls. It is not a big of deal as it seems. Each phone call is short and to the point. You are just calling to introduce yourself and say what you hope to accomplish in the upcoming year. Even a word how you are glad to have their child. Each phone call lasts maybe 2 minutes. In 30 minutes, you can do 15 calls. In 5 days, you can do 60 home calls. If you have an hour each night, do more! In two weeks you should have made a first phone call home. On the first day of school, you are on the look out for problem students. Single these out first to make phone calls. But again, these are a friendly introduction phone calls. I repeat. You cannot make a first call about a discipline problem. The parent will wonder who you are and where you have been! This first phone call also will make the student aware that you have contacted parents. That's a major plus for you! Also, do not call home for the first minor occurrence. You don't need to. And you do not need to call home each and every time.
How do you get phone and email information? You have two options. One is the hard way. Looking up the students records. The problem is, records are not updated until after school starts. Plus, you have do dig. The easy way is to pass out a student survey on the first day of school. This survey is a way to get phone and email info but disguised as a survey. This survey basically asks for students name, age, interests, etc. Anything you can think of from favorite food to favorite music. Mixed in with these questions are places to put phone numbers and email addresses. Include the name of the parent contact. Make sure students have your email address as well. Some schools make it very easy to get this info with just a few computer key strokes. But passing out a survey is a part of classroom discipline as well. It makes the students think that you are interested in them! Getting to know your students on a personal basis can many times ward off classroom disturbances. Please read the article titled, Be a Great Teacher.
Classroom discipline is also a triage system. Deal with the major problems first. A good teacher will know on the first two days of school which students will be disruptive to your classroom discipline plan.
Deal with them quickly. But here's where it gets tricky. Not everything will work. Do not be combative. Maintain your composure. Call home. Never single this student out in class overtly. They are probably looking for attention. Meet with the student after class. Talk to them. Negotiate with them. That's right! Most students will actually respond to this type of response.
Here's more truth as far as classroom discipline goes. There are students who you will just have to live with. Make the best of it. You are the professional. It will be up to you to solve problems. As time goes on, your experience will multiply exponentially and you will succeed!
Remember: Engaged students is successful classroom discipline! Keep problem students engaged. Ask for their opinions, help, answers, etc. Get them to help you in class. That's right! Keep em busy! I used to ask these students to pass out and collect papers.
Administrators do not want to hear about your discipline problems. Period. That's more truth. Sad, but true. You are the teacher and are expected to handle classroom discipline situations. Yes, for major disruptions they will help. But their help is only a band-aid. That's why putting out fires in classroom behavior is of utmost importance.
Never give out school work as a punishment.
You want school work to be thought of as fun and enlightening. If you make it a part of punishment, students will think of any school work as punishment. Many already do!
My thought on punishments for minor problems is to forget them altogether. The best punishment is a call home. Deal with the problem, stop it, and move on. You will waste valuable class time by writing detentions, referrals, screaming, yelling, etc. Just don't do it.
Remember: 99% of all classroom problems are minor!
Do not elevate them to a new level!
If you do not follow this recommendation, your classroom discipline will be rough on you and very difficult to maintain.
Yelling and screaming will only put fuel on a fire. A non-defiant student will suddenly become defiant. A mild-mannered student will feel threatened. Now you have a huge discipline problem! You now have a disrespectful and defiant student looking for action. Please, please, please avoid this at all times! You will never be able to get past this. Your students now know you can be baited to go off. Never let them see you lose your cool. You will lose your students respect in a way you will never regain.
Each and every teacher wants to scream and yell. It goes with the territory. But knowing it solves nothing and knowing it creates more problems will enable you to avoid it.
And avoid it you must! Use a little humor. Lighten up! It will go a long way.
Okay. But what about major classroom discipline problems?
These are few and far between. The best way is to prevent them from happening. Get to know your students. Have your students get to know you. Maintain a good classroom management program. Maintain respect. Maintain student engagement. Student engagement is another topic. Learn all you can about it. As stated early in this article, if your students are engaged in learning, you have mastered classroom discipline.
However, there are times when classroom discipline calls for outside help. Drugs, fights, and other forms of student harassment are major problems. A good, prepared teacher will already know the steps the school has for dealing with these. Find out before the first day of school who to call, who to contact, what forms to fill out, etc. You cannot solve these problems yourself. Do not try. Make the phone call for security, and let the process go.
But remember, 99% of all classroom discipline problems are minor and can be dealt with in a minor way. The faster you return to the teaching and learning process, the better!