Almost every teacher has experienced the frustration of trying to manage an unruly student. Some have even come to the point of sending the student to the office with instructions saying, “Kill this one,” or “I never want to see this student again.” In all likelihood, neither will happen. There are laws against killing students, and unless your life has been threatened, you will probably see the student quickly returned to your classroom.
It is important for teachers to step back and look at the big picture. Most children are good and come to school wanting to learn. There are always a few students who will test a teacher just to see what the limits are. A good discipline system and parental involvement can usually take care of these problems. A very small number of students are so disruptive that removal from the classroom is finally the only solution. If these students are allowed to continue to interfere with the teacher’s ability to communicate with the other students, little learning can take place. Good classroom discipline is important.
While the four main players in any classroom discipline situation are the student, teacher, parent, and administrator, the primary responsibility for good discipline lies with the classroom teacher. Teachers must develop a successful discipline plan and use it consistently.
A teacher has the right to recommend the removal of a student who continually disrupts, but only after other discipline options have been tried and documentation has been collected. (Students who are highly agitated can be removed under the emergency removal policies of the district.
Good Suggestions For Improving Discipline
- Be warm, kind, and friendly–but never familiar. Do not tell students your troubles or too much about your family life. Do not tell off-color jokes. You are a professional.
- Have rules that are fair and cover all types of subjects. Be sure that any set of rules includes, “Students will follow instructions given by the teacher, office, or any other employee of the district.” Put your rules in writing and provide copies for students and parents. Have them signed by both. Keep copies of signed rules on file.
- Enforce rules fairly and consistently. Use a checklist like the one found in this booklet or a system of merits and demerits.
- Stay in charge. Be alert and observant. Use that “teacher look” whenever possible. Maintain eye contact with students. Believe it or not, you can even “walk” with your eyes. Never look down when disciplining a student. Walk. Most students after the third grade do not want you near them. A walk around the room will solve many potential problems. Remember that you are the only one who has the right to walk around the room anytime you wish. Besides, a moving target is harder to hit!
- Raise your eyebrow–never your voice. Never argue with a student. If the problem continues, lower your voice and keep repeating your instructions. Understand that silence is an important tool. Think of Clint Eastwood when he said, “Make my day.” The madder you get, the lower and slower your voice should become. If the student continues to argue, simply say, “We will discuss this later.” Then walk away.
- Meet students one at a time. Stand at the door when students arrive. Greet each by name. Never scold a student in front of the class. If a student cannot be corrected by looking at him or standing next to him or through simple instructions, ask the student to step outside or to see you after class. Don’t over-react if the student says something under his/her breath. Your time will come, and everyone in the room knows it.
- Count to five. Learn to set limits. Many students need deadlines. Counting to five after instructions have been given is a good way to reinforce instructions or to get students on task quickly
- Keep students busy and involved. Students get bored when they have to do the same thing for too long or if they are required to do the same things over and over. The greater the variety of activities, the better. Make learning fun. Involve students with hands-on activities or short group work sessions. Remember, children learn best by doing. Even a few minutes with nothing to do can lead to student misbehavior.
- Work at discipline as hard as you work at teaching. Teaching good discipline is just as important as teaching the subject matter. In addition, poor discipline in your classroom can ruin your day, your job, and even your career.
- Have the attitude that violations of your rules will not be tolerated. No student should be allowed to continually disrupt the education of others. A strong, consistent attitude is more important than what sex you are, how tall you may be, or how many muscles you have. Discipline is a state of mind.