Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Classroom Issues/Positive Discipline< Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education | Classroom Issues
The primary reason teachers quit teaching is because of the frustrations of trying to control, lead, and guide the dynamics of their classroom. This is one of the many reasons teachers are concerned about discipline in their classrooms. Another obvious reason for concern is that it's easier to teach and learn in an orderly, constructive atmosphere.
The word "discipline" is often associated with negative visions of spankings, punishments, or the strict conformance to an overbearing set of rules. Is there such a thing as "Positive discipline"? The following introduces applicable preparation methods and techniques that are used to address behavioral issues in the classroom. Many tenure teachers use these methods to successfully optimize their classrooms for an effective, efficient, positive teaching and learning experience. First we will define reactive management as that which is controlled, guided, or dominated by corrective responses to behavioral problems. As a solution, teachers work on preparation and supporting behavior that causes efficient teaching and learning.
Before we discuss these ideas, we need to define the term prosocial. Prosocial behavior is constructive, positive, encouraging, considerate, kind, and respectful. One of the biggest communication barriers between students and teachers is that teachers assume the students know prosocial behavior. Discipline that is guided by corrective action or reaction responses to behavior problems has at least three damaging effects. One, setting rules, then having punishment or threats of punishments implies that the student has a option. The option is to obey, or disobey and suffer the consequences. If the threats or punishments don't work to enforce the rules, the only recourse for the teacher is increasing the severity of the punishment. In the classroom, prosocial behavior must be understood to be obligatory , not a personal choice or an option. Prosocial behavior is the classroom standard and it is to be practiced until it is learned. Two, written and verbal rules are too abstract and are external. Children internalize them only as their social relationships develop (Reimer, Paolitto, & Hersh, 1983, pp.39-42). Children see morality as justice and don't internalize justice as adherence to rules. Prosocial behavior must be taught, we cannot passively rely on a child's natural empathic feelings or sense of justice to automatically develop into good behavior (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989, p. 6) Teachers must teach the attitudes that fuels prosocial behavior instead of promoting an unending list of rules. Three, rules lead children to bypass the fundamental idea of respect. If children are focused on a set of rules, instead of the bases for the rules, students justify misbehavior that isn't addressed on the list of rules.
The framework for Disciplining to prosocial behavior is built by preparing the physical, instructional, and managerial components of teaching. Although there are times that a teacher must react with corrective interventions, preventive, and supportive interventions are always preferable, for both the student and the teacher. These ideas will be discussed below and developed into a practical, applicable guide for positive classroom discipline. The teacher hones and optimizes each component by continued preparation and reflection.
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Being prepared is the key to preventive intervention. Early on, teachers should become familiar with the schools procedures and policies. Teachers can also get to know their students by reviewing their records. Know the challenging students along with the exemplary ones. There are countless books and articles on case studies of social problems that occur in the classroom. One way of preventive intervention is being prepared for the student's behavior. The teacher must get on top of the situation. Planning classroom movements to lunch, recess, special periods, rest room etc. are just a few items that can be prepared for prosocial behavior. Remember, preventive means making decisions ahead of time. There are also physical or material preparation that can be done with the classroom (such as the seating arrangement) that create a safe, constructive facility for learning. Providing structures, thought out lesson also helps to guide constructive class time.
How can teachers support and promote prosocial behavior during the class period? They can actively lend assistance to help students learn prosocial skills. Teachers also need to model the behavior they expect from their students. Students need instruction on what to do, but it's just as important to give them ongoing help to achieve success. This is a difficult discipline for some teachers to practice. Maybe its human nature that adults seem to overlook or ignore correct behavior. It might be helpful to keep a record of the times that desired behavior occurs by recognizing the incident and complementing the students.
Schools as a whole also have a part to play in promoting prosocial behavior among students, according to Kidron and Fleischman. Schools can train teachers to integrate value-based lessons into their classroom management routines. The authors suggest giving students a say in class decision making or assigning academic tasks to pairs or small groups of students to bolster students’ understanding of democratic principles. Schools can also foster a caring community by encouraging members of the school community -- teachers, school administrators, cafeteria workers, and school bus drivers -- to model caring and respectful behavior. Schools can best encourage prosocial behavior by using consistent positive disciplinary practices that include clear expectations, discussions, and modeling. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a program distributed by the U.S. Department of Education, has shown that implementation of a similar program can improve students' behavior and academic performance (Kidron & Fleischman, 2006).
Along with the above mentioned techniques to preventative discipline you must also have a designated set of rules and procedures in the event something does happen. These rules should be clearly visible to the students and reviewed every few weeks to check for understanding (Lavay). This may not sound like it is preventative but letting the students know what will happen if they break the rules can be a deterrent for some students and lead to better classroom behavior. When a student does break the rules it is important to maintain the rules. There should be no exceptions and the teacher should “stick to their guns” when it comes to the appropriate procedure. If the teacher is lenient to one student the other students will see that and try to take the same leniency that the teacher showed the other student (Lavay). Quick and effective discipline for one student will stop future behavior problems from other students.
It needs to be understood, that no matter how much preparation or guidance is done, there will be need for corrective action for misbehavior. Teacher shouldn't internalize this as failure, but as a reality that comes with teaching. Don't take it personally, and don't make it personal. It's business, and it's part of the job; handle it professionally by diffusing the situation and minimizing the disruption to the lesson plan.
There are nonverbal, verbal, and physical responses. There are also methods and policies for reacting to more serious problem behaviors. Sometimes no response is the best response. Don't make a big issue out of a small, isolated event. Another nonverbal response is catching the student's eye, without others noticing, and shaking your head or finger as a signal of disapproval. Also, another way is to move closer to the student as you're lecturing, sometime teacher proximity can rectify the situation. The idea is to keep the continuity and efficiency of the classroom, and maintain teacher and student dignity.
Verbal responses can be done by talking to the student in a tone that others can't hear and express your disapproval of their behavior. Another way is by addressing the student directly and publicly or by addressing the classroom as a whole. Keep your cool, don't scream or raise your voice, be professional. Remember, the "push" or persuasion is for you to lose your cool, and temper. This disrupts the classroom and loses your respect with the students.
In very rare incidents, humor can be used to resolve the issue. More often than not, humor will complicate the dynamics of the student, teacher relationship and end up doing more harm that good. Never use sarcasm. After the teacher has developed a relationship with the student, understands their background and character, a teacher might venture out and test the waters by using humor to address some behavioral issues.
There are also physical responses to behavioral disruptions. Never strike a student! A student can be relocated within the classroom (maybe beside the teacher's desk). Remember that a student that has lost their temper or is throwing a tantrum needs to be calmed. Avoid saying things that fuel the fire. Diffuse the potential physical situation by letting them cool down. Challenging them causes the situation to eventually come to a head, and everyone loses. There can be consequences to their behavior after they have cooled down and had time to adjust their disposition. For more serious problems (guns, knives, etc.) consult your school policy and resources (on sight police, counselor, physiologist, etc.) available to help with potential extreme violence.
Tips for Classroom DisciplineEdit
- It's easier to get easier
- Teachers have to have good classroom management and discipline from day one. Then you can get easier as the year goes on.
- Fairness is key
- If you expect to be respected, you must be fair to all students.
- Deal with disruptions with as little interruption as possible
- Deal with them immediately and with as little interruptions to the class as possible
- Avoid confrontations in front of students
- Deal with discipline issues privately so they do not "lose face" in front of their friends.
- Stop disruptions with a little humor
- Sometimes a good laugh will help get things back on track in the classroom.
In addressing discipline problems in the classroom, it's important that teachers are able to laugh at themselves. Managing a classroom is difficult. Teachers aren't failures because of the social problems that occur in their classroom. Social problems occur in the military, government, business, church, special interest groups and families. When dealing with any group of people, you will be dealing with social problems. Take these issues into perspective, by not internalizing or taking them personally. Address it professionally by structuring a positive classroom discipline using three components. First, be prepared. Second, instruct, assist, promote, and practice prosocial behavior in the classroom. And third, review past successful practices of reactive intervention when misbehavior occurs. Each teacher can succeed by optimizing each component with continued preparation and reflection. If it was easy, everyone would be a teacher.
Multiple Choice QuestionsEdit
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- Butts, Elizabeth A. (2002). Positive Classroom Discipline: Pentronics Publishing: teachingforsuccess.com
- DiGiulio, Robert (2000). Positive Classroom Management: Corwin Press, Inc.
- Epanchin, C. Betty, Townsend, Brenda; Stoddard, Kim; (1994) Constructive Classroom Management: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company
- Galloway, David (1976).Case Studies In Classroom Management:Longman Group Limited
- Kidron, Yael, Fleischman, Steve. (April 2006). Research Matters / Promoting Adolescents' Prosocial Behavior. Educational Leadership, 63, 7.
- Lavay, Barry. Positive Behavior Management in Physical Activity Setting. Human Kinetics, 2006
- Nissman, S. Blossom (2006). Teacher-Tested Classroom Management Strategies Second Edition: Pearson Merill Prentice Hall