Positive discipline might sound nice, but it is only part of the plan. There are many times when I come across as being negative, but it is for a positive outcome. Discipline, as related to behavior, is basically a matter of control, and often for the purpose of behavior modification. It is the ability to maintain control so that learning can take place. This means that in the classroom there is a desire is to have and maintain an atmosphere that is conducive for learning.
Teachers have their own unique personalities, and the discipline plan for the classroom will be in line with that personality. The teacher must be able to relate to, and develop a good relationship with their students. Without this it is unlikely that any discipline plan will succeed. The teacher needs to discuss with the students his or her philosophy regarding how learning takes place in the classroom, and then develop guidelines and rules that will facilitate that learning atmosphere.
Any teacher who succeeds in developing a disciplinary plan for the classroom, should already have that preliminary plan developed before ever walking into the classroom. When that planning is already done, it is easy to guide the students through it, allowing them to have input, and giving them opportunity to buy into the plan. When they have input, they will be more likely to respect the plan.
Teachers need to give some reasonable explanation for why a rule is important, and how it plays a role in classroom success. Allow for reasonable adjustments to be suggested by the students, and try to compromise where possible. Rather than a rule that says, “no talking in the classroom,” make it a little less strict by saying, “Talking is not a bad thing, but can you allow me, the teacher, to determine when it is appropriate?” Then discuss when it might be, or not be appropriate. Ask if they agree, and when they do you will have a buy-in by the class, and success is more likely.
Once the preliminary plan is set, and students have a copy, you can begin to implement it. It must be established that the teacher is in charge, but the students and the teacher are not enemies. Rather, they are a team whose goal is to create a place where their education is enhanced. From that point on, consistency and firmness, mixed with reasonable and appropriate compromise on the part of the teacher and/or the student will lead to a peaceful learning atmosphere.
The teacher must always be the final authority. Students must respect that authority. Disrespect cannot be tolerated. Of course at least one of the rules will establish the respect issue. There can be a set of rules that allow for adjustment and compromise, and a set of rules that are set in stone and have no room for debate. Once again, the teacher will be the final authority.
The teacher must be willing to follow these guidelines no matter how other teachers are doing. When the students walk into your classroom, they should know that this is not like all other classes. In this classroom it does not matter what is allowed elsewhere. Students should have their supplies, be in dress code, speak with respect, not be disruptive, do the class work, and pay attention. There will be no cell phones out, no Ipods, no snacks, and talking only when appropriate. All of these should be in the guidelines that the students have agreed to, and helped to develop. With minimal adjustments, and a quality teacher, this will be a great learning place.
Once all of the tweaking is done and the policy is established, no matter what other teachers are doing that gives the students more freedom or less structure, this classroom policy must stand as a firm foundation on which your students can feel safe and secure. The teacher must not allow student complaints, or statements like, “so and so allows us to,” to cause him or her to lower the standard.
As one of five Campus Monitors in a high school, I have discovered that once I establish my methods and consistency, and it is known that I expect the rules to be followed, I gain the respect of the students. For example, today as I walked down the hall I noticed student after student taking their hoods or hats off when I made eye contact with them, and as they walked by me I said, “thanks.” They smiled. This is a result of consistency, and continues to develop a good relationship between me and the students. They know I expect them to cooperate or there are consequences. Because of inconsistency among the campus monitors, I still have to deal with some disrespect, and those, “So and so doesn’t say anything about” comments. I simply say, I am not that person, and you know what I expect. It will not be perfect, but the increasing amount of respect that I feel along the way tells me that it is working.
It would be wonderful if all the staff were on the same page in this area, but some teachers and other staff have pets, or just become friends with the students. This always causes problems. Hold tight to your standards. Hold your banner high. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Always believe that you are making your students better people because you care enough to keep a solid foundation and high standards.