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Setting the Rules: Discipline

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SETTING THE RULES: DISCIPLINE

If you are firm, fair and friendly, you can achieve classroom control and enhance student achievement. Here are several common discipline concerns for teachers:

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE A CONFRONTATION WITH A STUDENT?

Before you act, you should know:

  • What triggered the confrontation? Did you issue a challenge? Did you "put down" the student? Is the student challenging you?
  • Can the situation be avoided or delayed? Should there be a cooling-off period? Should there be an audience?
  • What are the consequences? How will this better the relationship?

You can try:

  • Showing that you are in control of yourself by using relaxed gestures and a steady voice.
  • Moving to a neutral location.
  • Restating problems or feelings you think you heard, using "feeling" words.
  • Focusing on specific behavior and not on the person.
  • Withholding judgment until there is an agreement on what happened.

 
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A STUDENT SEEMS TO BE A CONSTANT DISTRACTION TO THE REST OF THE CLASS?

Before you act, you should know:

  • What need the student is trying to fill (acceptance, love, attention, worth).
  • What the consequences have been for the student's behavior up to now.
  • What attitude the other students demonstrate toward this student (respect, dislike, envy).
  • Whether this is a problem of behavior or attitude.

You can try:

  • A contract with the student specifying what you will do in recognition of a behavior change.
  • Using a "time out" to remove the student from the situation. This place is in the room, contains no distractions, and is not punishment, but rather an aid for focusing.
  • Telling the class there will be 10 minutes of free time if the work is completed on schedule. Put the number 10 on the board. If distractions occur, cross out the 10 and reduce the free time to 9. Usually, other students will put pressure on the troublemaker to behave.

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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN STUDENTS HAVE TUNED YOU OUT AND ARE NOT LISTENING?

Before you act, you should know:

  • What percentage of students have tuned you out?
  • Has tuning you out become a habit for these students?
  • Why are students tuning you out? Are you saying relevant things? Have you been talking too long? Are you talking beyond the students' capacity to understand?
  • What does your response to the "tuned-out" students say to them? Are you personally offended? Have you become defensive? Are you disappointed with yourself?

You can try:

  • Ignoring these students; let them experience the consequences of their behavior.
  • Enjoying the students who are tuned in.
  • Probing some other interest which these students may have.
  • Observing closely for possible learning problems or physical problems which may influence these students.
  • Stating your feelings about their behavior.
  • Asking them to describe and explain their behavior.

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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A STUDENT CURSES OR USES AN OBSCENE GESTURE?

Before you act, you should know:

  • If the student knows the meaning of what he or she is saying or doing.
  • What triggered this behavior (anger, attempt to be funny, need for attention, shock value).
  • Who this was intended for. (Was this meant for another student? Was this meant for you to see and/or react to?)
  • Whether or not this is worth a confrontation--major or minor.
  • If you can turn this into a positive learning experience.

You can try:

  • Not registering shock, anger or embarrassment--but keeping your cool.
  • Ignoring the behavior.
  • Asking the student the meaning of what he or she said or did.
  • Asking the student to use a substitute word.
  • Calling a conference with the student and the parents of repeat offenders to emphasize your position on cursing in school.

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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN TWO STUDENTS ARE FIGHTING?

Act immediately. If possible, separate them. If not possible, send for another adult. Before you do anything else, you should answer these questions:

  • Should you remove the combatants from those who watched the fight? This could mean less pressure on the combatants to put on a show for others. This could mean less pressure on you to act hastily for the sake of others.
  • Do either you or the students need a cooling-off period to think about what happened and the consequences?
  • Are these students frequently involved in fights, or is this an unusual situation?
  • Do you clearly understand the most recent court rulings on corporal punishment and their implications?

You can try:

  • Keeping your composure and speaking and acting as unemotionally as possible.
  • Acting impartially and trying to get the facts.
  • Keeping the situation in perspective -- if the students have cooled down, don't re-ignite their anger.
  • Determining what triggered the fight.
  • Determining if there was a clear-cut aggressor and if only that student deserves the punishment.
  • Allowing students to verbalize their anger.
  • Helping students look at better ways to deal with the situation.
  • Selecting a consequence that is humane and fair to both students.
  • Stating that once the consequences are carried out, the issue is gone from your mind and should be gone from their minds, too.