In Part 1 I discussed the value of taking the time to understand the various personalities and temperaments in your classroom or home so you are prepared for those individuals who are not exactly like you and often confuse you with their behavior.
Today I want to focus on the importance of cultivating positive classroom discipline BEFORE the first day of school. (For those parents who might be reading but are not teachers, these lessons apply to you, too!).
Let’s begin with a simple question: Is discipline concerned with preventing misconduct or punishing it?
How you answer that question will reveal a lot about how you view classroom management. I believe that the purpose of classroom management is not to punish those who break rules but to establish an environment that is orderly, predictable, and fair so that the students feel secure and free to learn.
IT STARTS ON DAY 1
Truly, the first day of school can make or break your year, especially a new teacher. By the time the second week is over, a culture exists in your classroom with well-defined roles for teacher and student, so you want to make sure you create the ones you want because you will be living with them for the rest of the year.
Does that mean you’re stuck now since it’s already February? No. You can begin redirecting things now, though you will not be able to change the course of this ship as much now as you could had you started on Day 1.
In order to begin next year with the right climate, here are Seven Insights for cultivating the climate you want in your classroom:
1. BELIEVE THAT YOUR STUDENTS WILL OBEY YOU
You must understand your role in the classroom. It is to MANAGE IT. You must command the classroom with poise and confidence. Expect them to obey you. Never, ever negotiate.
- Be proactive rather than reactive
- Communicate your discipline system clearly
- Be consistent in how you follow it
- Use your best teacher demeanor and presence more than your voice
- Walk slowly toward the student and slowly away
- Stand in front of the student
- Look directly at the student and ignore everyone else
2. ESTABLISH ORDER AND PROCEDURES THE FIRST DAY
For those of you who may not like the word rules, let’s talk about why they are important. Rules provide the foundation and framework of your clasroom. Without rules, there’s chaos.
With students, I use the analogy of traffic laws. No one likes to stop at a stop sign, but what would happen if we didn’t have stop signs or traffic lights? Classroom rules and procedures are essential if things are to run smoothly without collisions. These are key components in creating a classroom where students feel safe.
Decide on your rules and post them. Here are a few rules that can apply to all ages:
- When you enter my classroom, use an inside voice
- You may speak only when you raise your hand and I have called on you
- When someone else is talking, you are to be quiet
- Keep your hands and feet to yourself, because we show respect for one another’s bodies
- There will be no name-calling or verbal put-downs. I will not tolerate any words that undermine or distract from the teaching
3. ESTABLISH LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES FOR INAPPROPRIATE CONDUCT SO YOU CAN BUILD NEW BEHAVIORS
The purpose of logical consequences is to retrain the student in appropriate behavior. Therefore, the consequence must be related to the deed.
For example, if a student talks without raising their hand, the logical consequence would be not to acknowledge them or let them talk until they raise their hand and are called on by you. An illogical consequence would be sending them to time out.
If a student is walking inappropriately, the logical consequence is to make them go back and do it again. Or if they chew gum, have them clean the gum messes in the classroom.
Yelling at students or arbitrarily taking away something like recess does not retrain them in the behavior you desire. By having the students repeat the behavior correctly, you retrain them to behave appropriately. This can apply to things beyond typical discipline issues, such as writing legibly.
4. ESTABLISH A WAY TO ESCALATE YOUR RESPONSE TO REPEATED MISBEHAVIOR
Your response to misbehavior must be predictable and fair so that students know what to expect from you every time. Create a system that works for you, and then use it the same way every time.
I go into more detail on this point in the Discipline By Design video series and workbook, but for now I will simply say that my own system moves from level one with the student to level two with the parents and student to level three with involving school administration.
5. WASTE NO VALUABLE TIME TEACHING
As a mental exercise, analyze how much time you spend collecting papers, lining up students at the door, and repeating other procedural (not instructional) tasks each week. You may be startled to see the amount of time wasted.
Your challenge is to minimize wasted time. Jot down some “time wasters” and consider how to create more efficient procedures. (Frankly, an administrator can observe the systems, or lack thereof, the minute he or she walks into the classroom).
6. EXPECT STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE LEARNING PROCESS
The students are there to learn. However, sometimes we struggle to compete with television, movies, video games, computers, etc. Today, our students have shorter attention spans than ever, it seems. We must EXPECT them to behave and become engaged. And it starts with you and the culture you create in your classroom.
7. TEACH SO THAT YOUR STUDENTS MAY LEARN
This final point is actually the main point. The is the goal for your classroom. Discipline and classroom management help you achieve this goal. But sometimes we become so consumed with disciplinary issues and paperwork that we forget our real mission.
If our real mission is to teach, we must set up a classroom that is conducive to learning. Just make sure you don’t spend all your time making attractive bulletin boards and fun lesson plans and forget to plan ahead for classroom management! Put a practical plan in place from day one so that more of your time and effort can go to doing your real mission of teaching those wonderful kids!