I confess that I don’t like the word “discipline” when it comes to classroom management. There is something strong-armed about the word; it sounds too conscripting, somewhat oppressive, and punitive. Sure, there are wild behaviors that need to be addressed; students will be unruly and disruptive; they will be distracting and harmful to the tone that is most conducive to learning. But discipline always smacks of a battle-won-but-the war-lost when it comes to what we teachers are really trying to accomplish with our students.

I’ll keep the word discipline as the main title of this section only because it happens to be the one word everybody will at least understand, even if there are as many approaches to managing behaviors as there are teachers in the country—millions. As far as formal discipline programs, there are many. Among them are Positive Discipline; Assertive Discipline; Obedience Model; Responsibility-Centered Discipline; Conscious Discipline; Love & Logic; Love & Limits; Restorative Discipline; PBIS—Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports;  PBSS—Positive Behavioral Support System; PAC—Positive Academic Change; CMCD—Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline; STAR—Student Transition and Recovery; Discipline by Design; Stoplight System; Discipline Point System; Behavior Contracts; Behavior Redirection Program; Best Behavior Program; and there are many more, and this is not to mention the dozens of behavior tracking apps and programs that schools use.

Instead of defining all of these programs or advocating for any one or a few of them – (my schools have adopted the Conscious Discipline approach plus the Responsibility-Centered Discipline model) – I would like to hear from teachers directly about what they do in the classroom, what mindset do they embrace, what philosophy matters to them when it comes to effective classroom management, or if you will, classroom discipline. Send me your thoughts via email to enlivenminds@yahoo.com or submit a comment below.

But first, I feel compelled to insert my core classroom ideals—those elements I feel have the best chance at cultivating responsible, engaged, and mutually supportive learners in the classroom.

Enlivenminds’ 10 Classroom Ideals

  • Client Image

    Perhaps this is the leading antidote to poor classroom behavior—creating a classroom environment of happy and engaged students. When I observe classrooms where students are misbehaving, I almost always detect some gap between the aims the teacher has for that class and the methodology that should be in place to engage learners. When students are not engaged, trouble is always lurking. When you combine all of the above in this list of ideals with classroom approaches that include small group projects, individualized attention, the workshop model, an every-student-participates philosophy, references to student interests and strengths, lessons of relevance, and a mindset from the teacher that emphasizes intrinsic over extrinsic motivation, there is a much greater chance that your classroom will be known as the class where students don’t misbehave and where students get a lot done.

    • Engagement:
  • Client Image

    Always ready your students—emotionally, physically, or psychologically—at the start of class, before launching into the task at hand. You can do this through some mind-clearing, kinesthetic, breathing, or otherwise decompressing activity or exercise. This is key for all transitions throughout the day—kids coming back in after recess, following lunch, after having PE, after a class down the hall whose teacher has poor classroom management skills, whatever the transition is. The concept of mindfulness, which for schools is about getting students calmed down from their hyper-activity or from anxiety or stress-elevating experiences, is one teachers should research and consider seriously if they are not versed in these tactics. There are tons of mindfulness sites, but the most important thing to know is that this is not about some new age, laissez faire approach to the modern classroom; it is as serious as it is thoughtful regarding the inner lives of the students and the means by which we teachers need to gain access at all junctures of the school to the best of these students’ minds and hearts.

    • Mindfulness:
  • Client Image

    Treat all assessments and tests as informational.  This means that any grading going on will not just be a rubric or measurement of what the student knows or can do, but perhaps more importantly, grades should be seen as indicators – first and foremost they are indicators to the teacher on how he/she is getting the lesson across to the students; secondly, grades ought to be seen as a plan for that student’s pathway toward continued progress, even for students who score the 100%. These grades won’t have meaning for students or for parents unless the teacher translates them in to adjustments in teaching approach and/or in expectations for that student. The reason this is an ideal under the main topic of Discipline stems from the growing anxiety and stress in students associated with assessments and success in school.  The more that teachers can adjust and tweak classroom approaches as a result of student performance, the more that students will see the value and the meaning in what the teacher is asking them to do.

    • Assessments as Information:
  • Client Image

    Communicate with parents, ideally via a phone call or face-to-face meeting, when poor behavior becomes habitual. As vital as partnership with parents is to the success of their children at school, this ideal remains one of the most difficult to accomplish. It requires a great deal of professionalism on the teacher’s part; an ability to remain calm while the parent expresses frustration and begins lashing back at the school; and a willingness to impart suggestions for the parents when it comes to supporting school expectations with their children at home. Certainly teachers may need to pull an administrator into these meetings if there is any anticipation that the meeting will be a challenging one. Parent partnership is key to achieving the best classroom atmosphere possible.

    • Partner with Parents:
  • Client Image

    Take a personable approach to holding kids accountable. Instead of kicking kids out of class, berating them in front of others, docking them in the gradebook without informing them, exhibiting publically your own outrage and anger, or humiliating them with a stern reprimand in front of the class, try the personal connection approach. When there is a disturbance or distraction, gently remind students the right behavior you are striving to see from everyone while moving forward promptly with the lesson; then, at the end of the class or lesson, arrange for a one-to-one with the student involved, which is when you will address the matter calmly, sensitively, yet firmly, communicating your disappointment and giving the student an opportunity to own up to the behavior. During the one-to-one, you’ll have the chance to discuss alternative behavior or to explore coping skills the student can use when feeling anxious or stressed. This is all easier said than done, but the prompt one-to-one will go so much farther (than other traditional punitive or point systems) in developing a better relationship with the student which is so key in turning behavior toward the positive.

    • Accountability:
  • Client Image

    Commit yourself to knowing the students and genuinely caring for them. I always say to teachers that the foundational mindset successful teachers have in common is that they know their kids and love them. To me, this mindset is an obligation if one wishes to stay in the teaching profession. Many of my colleagues typically regard the word “love” with skepticism—okay, I get the concern in this world of hyper sensitivity. I still believe in that approach, including the use of the word “love” in its humanitarian context.

    • Knowing and Loving Your Students:
  • Client Image

    Seek to elicit and cultivate every student’s voice. This is the ideal that I address more comprehensively in my three I’s pages on this site—Identity, Inquiry, and Imagination. I’m referring here to Identity when I mention voice, because teaching your students how to ask questions, how to carry on with class discussions, how to express themselves in their writing and in their creativity—this is the way students will feel invested personally in the classroom proceedings, which will in turn cut back significantly in distracting or disrespectful behavior.

    • Cultivate Student Voice:
  • Client Image

    Teach inclusivity through the acceptance of differences. In order to capture student interest in the subject at hand and to build respect for you the teacher, elevating inclusivity as a chief classroom cultural priority is essential. This ideal is linked with knowing and loving your students, as creating the inclusive classroom will entail giving each student multiple opportunities to share interests, personal backgrounds, and individual perspectives. As the teacher, one must be modelling both an interest in each student and maintain memory of the distinctive qualities each student brings to the table – by making reference to these unique and individual qualities and experiences, students will feel they have a stake in the classroom proceedings, and thus curtailing their impulse or habit of being oppositional or inappropriate.

    • Inclusivity:
  • Client Image

    Give as much priority to teaching kids how to be a good student as you do to teaching the skills and the content.  This doesn’t mean devoting equal time to classroom procedures as you do to skills development, but the priority must be equivalent. Also, reviewing successful classroom behaviors is not just a day one responsibility; it’s an all year responsibility. The more you make reference to the best way to hand in a paper; the best way to raise your hand and ask a question; the best way to support your fellow students; the best way to share the materials and manipulatives; the best way to ask the teacher for extra help—whatever the student action item, it is crucial to teach how to do it well. Alongside this priority should be the approach of affirming, noticing the right behaviors in the classroom, which is something that is taught very nicely in the Conscious Discipline program.

    • Teach How to be a Student:
    • Student
  • Client Image

    Encourage / solicit feedback from students on whether they are learning the lesson, whether they are understanding the expectations, whether they are feeling the mutual support in the classroom. When you solicit student feedback on whether they are learning or whether they liked the lesson, you will often be surprised at what they tell you—and if you take this feedback to heart, you’re on your way to a more successful class with minimal disruptions. Students who feel empowered to share their feedback on how the classroom is going will definitely build trust in their teacher and will feel the relevance of the subject and the learning they are experiencing.

    • Asking Students for Feedback:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *