Discipline problems are listed as the major concern for most teachers. What can teachers expect and how can they effectively handle discipline problems? Classroom management combined with an effective discipline plan is the key. This how to will help you see some important steps in dealing with discipline problems that may arise in your classroom.
- Begin each class period with a positive attitude and high expectations. If you expect your students to misbehave or you approach them negatively, you will get misbehavior. This is an often overlooked aspect of classroom management.
- Come to class prepared with lessons for the day. Make sure to have all your materials and methods ready to go. Reducing downtime – i.e. unproductive time or time when there is some kind of machine malfunction – will help maintain discipline in your classroom.
- Work on making transitions between parts of lessons smooth. In other words, as you move from whole group discussion to independent work, try to minimize disruption to the class. Have your papers ready to go or your assignment already written on the board. Many disruptions occur during transitional times during lessons.
- Watch your students as they come into class or as soon as you enter class. Look for signs of possible problems before class even begins. For example, if you notice a heated discussion or problem before class starts, try to deal with the problem then. Allow the students a few moments to talk with you or with each other before you start your lesson to try and work things out. Try to gain agreement that during your class period at least they will drop whatever issue they have.
- Have a posted discipline plan that you follow consistently for effective classroom management. Depending on the severity of the offense, this should allow students a warning or two before you move to the next stage of reporting to the Department Head / Supervisor / HM. Your plan should be easy to follow and also should cause a minimum of disruption in your class. For example, your discipline plan might be – First Offense: Verbal Warning, Second Offense: Detention during PE / Art / Music period (students generally hate missing these classes and are likely to avoid this at any cost), Third Offense: Referral.
- Meet disruptions that arise in your class with kind measures. In other words, don’t elevate disruptions above their current level. Your discipline plan should provide for this, however, sometimes your own personal issues can get in the way. For example, if two students are talking in the back of the room and your first step in the plan is to give your students a verbal warning, don’t stop your instruction to begin yelling at the students. Instead, have a set policy that simply saying a student’s name is enough of a clue for them to get back on task. Another technique is to ask one of them a question.
- Try to use humor to diffuse situations before things get out of hand. Note: Know your students. The following example would be used with students you know would not elevate the situation to another level. For example, if you tell your students to open their books to page 51 and three students are busy talking; do not immediately yell at them. Instead, smile, say their names, and ask them kindly if they could please wait until later to finish their conversation because though you would really like to hear how it ends, you have to get this class finished. This will probably get a few laughs but also get your point across. Never try to be sarcastic. This has a boomerang effect about it!
- If a student becomes verbally confrontational with you, remain calm and remove them from the situation as quickly as possible. Do not get into yelling matches with your students. There will always be a winner and a loser which sets up a power struggle that could continue throughout the year. Further, do not bring the rest of the class into the situation by involving them in the discipline or the writing of the referral.
- If a student becomes physical, remember the safety of the other students is paramount. Remain as calm as possible; your demeanor can sometimes diffuse the situation.
- Keep an anecdotal record of major issues that arise in your class. This might be necessary if you are asked for a history of classroom disruptions or other documentation.
- Let it go at the end of the day. Classroom management and disruption issues should be left in class so that you can have some time to recharge before coming back to another day of teaching.
- Never ever pile up issues and speak to the student about bygone issues. Focus only on the current issue. It is worthwhile remembering that we reclaim many things – why not our students? They will remember you for a life time for this act of compassion.
- Recognize the warning signs of disruption. Obviously this comes with practice of classroom management. However, some signs are fairly obvious.
- Sarcasm should not be used. Many students do not have the capacity to know that sarcasm is not meant to be taken literally. Further, other students could find your sarcasm as inflammatory which would defeat your purpose of greater classroom management.
- Consistency and fairness are essential for effective classroom management. If you ignore disruptions one day and come down hard on them the next, you will not be seen as consistent. You will lose respect and disruptions will probably increase. Further, if you are not fair in your punishments, making sure to treat all students fairly then students will quickly realize this and lose respect for you. You should also start each day fresh, not holding disruptions against students and instead expecting them to behave.
- It’s easier to get easier. Start the year firmly so that students see that you are willing to do what it takes to have your classroom under control. They will understand that you expect learning to occur in your room. You can always let up as the year goes on.
- Rules must be easy to understand and manageable. Make sure that you don’t have such a large number of rules that your students can’t consistently follow them.