Behavior and respect for authority are what build character. Students need to build good character, and they need to be prepared for life as an adult when they will find that they will always be under authority either from a boss, a sergeant, or in a worst case under the authority of a judge and correctional officers. Good character may not sound valuable to a student, but as an adult, they will discover that relationships, jobs, promotions and loan applications will stand or fall on the basis of what people think of someone’s character.
In the past much effort was expended by educators to raise up students of high moral character, and firm discipline to high standards was the classical means of producing students of high moral character. Today’s educators aspire to graduate students of good character who will become good citizens of the community, but today it is even more important to apply a firm and consistent discipline to students. We struggle against rising scholastic standards and declining scholastic performance. The sad facts are that today’s teachers are better equipped, better trained and have at their facility better teaching methods than the teachers of twenty or more years ago, yet scholastic performance declines. Discipline problems in the classroom are a primary reason why scholastic performance is on the decline even though my colleagues are better equipped to teach than their predecessors.
For most students it is a challenge to learn a subject well enough to get an A. Even under the best of conditions, there are some students who struggle to pass. Learning a topic requires the student to listen to instruction, participate in classroom exercises and do homework intended to give the student practice. Students are then evaluated by term papers, quizzes and examinations. This becomes more difficult when other students talk, throw objects, pass notes or do other disruptive activities. A student who can not hear will not learn. A student who is distracted by his or her classmates will not process the lesson. Some students in a disruptive class come to the conclusion that the class must not be very important.
Today’s teachers are expected to practice good classroom management. A well managed classroom will produce an environment highly conducive to learning. In theory, students in a well managed classroom will achieve. Thus administrators are always urging teachers to improve their classroom management. In general, more successful students are produced by those teachers with better classroom management. A number of things contribute to classroom management. A good lesson plan that keeps students engaged promotes good classroom management. An interesting subject and interesting topics for lessons make classroom management easier. A teacher with good personality who relates to the students is off to a good start, while teachers with a reputation of being boring must work harder at classroom management. Jokes and stories help. It helps to have a sense of pacing when presenting the lesson, but the most important part of classroom management is good discipline.
It seems that there is always someone who would rather not be taking the class. There are also those students who refuse to become engaged in the lesson no matter how interesting or how humorous the presentation. In addition there are those disruptive students who seek attention or have other personal reasons to misbehave. In the absence of a controlling influence, there will be disruptive behavior that can quickly turn a classroom into chaos. That controlling influence is the teacher.
At one time, strict classroom rules prohibited all disruptive behaviors including talking without permission. Often the rules were enforced with the aid of a willow switch or a ruler, though many teachers got just as good results by calling home to the parents. Regardless of whether or not the consequence was physical punishment or psychological in nature, students were held to strict rules under threat of dire consequences.
Today’s society calls for a relaxation of the strict rules of yesterday. To some extent that is good, but too many students expect that all rules have disappeared. The basic fact, however, is that there must be fundamental classroom rules to prevent disruptions, and the teacher must have the authority to enforce those rules in order to maintain classroom management.
Effective teaching does not occur without good classroom management, and good classroom management depends on the enforcement of classroom rules. The problem is that current laws and parental attitudes effectively handcuff the classroom teacher. At the same time, few students respect the authority of the teacher. Thus they balk at requests for good behavior and often argue with teachers. Neither improves the learning environment of the classroom.
A lot of energy and money is being expended to develop and disseminate new and improved teaching strategies, but it will be all for naught unless first good classroom management is restored by enforcing consistent and firm discipline in our schools. Parents and legislators must support school administrators who, in turn, must back up their teachers. Once good discipline is used to hold disruptive behavior in check, our excellent teachers will be able to impart wisdom to their students.