When it comes to classroom discipline, it is possible to be consistent and flexible at the same time. The secret is to keep it as simple as possible. If you concentrate your initial efforts on teaching classroom procedures to your students instead of rules, you won’t have to enforce a long list of them. Think about it. More time spent on teaching classroom procedure means less time spent on rule enforcement, and that equals more time spent on learning in the long run. This means the list of rules you plan to enforce can be very short.
All you have to do is take time at the beginning of the school year to practice classroom procedures with your students until they become habit. By this I mean going over procedures for everything you do in the classroom that requires structure (i.e., putting away supplies, turning in assignments, getting ready for lunch, entering the classroom, exiting the classroom, etc.) After your procedures are in place, the rules can be quite simple. This doesn’t mean your students can get away with more off task behaviors. It means covering more boundaries with a smaller list of rules. The following is a very small list of rules that covers just about everything. I have narrowed it down to just three:
1. Do the right thing.
2. Show respect.
3. Do your best work.
Rule #1 pertains to behavior and staying on task. Rule #2 pertains to treatment of other people and their property. Rule #3 relates to personal work habits. These three rules cover every potential problem in the classroom.
The success rate for implementing these rules in the classroom is directly proportionate to how well classroom procedures are taught to the students. The first few weeks of school should include as much time as needed to teach classroom procedures. Think about all the procedures that will take place in your classroom, and then decide how you want students to perform each of them on a day-to-day basis. It is important to take as much time as needed to teach them to the students.
After students are familiar with classroom procedures, the small list of rules is all you will need to enforce. The consequences for rule infractions vary according to the age of student and local school policies for discipline, but enforcement of the consequences is key to successful management of discipline. You must set the boundaries, teach the boundaries, and also enforce the adherence of them. You must be fair, firm and consistent at all times.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If students have been carefully taught the right thing to do (until it becomes habit,) the need for discipline will decrease.