Achieving Positive Classroom Discipline ITTT
The word "discipline" generally carries a negative connotation. When people think of "discipline," they imagine an old-fashioned schoolhouse and a teacher smacking students with a ruler. This is not the sort of discipline anyone would encourage in today's school environment. Children often think of discipline as a teacher yelling, and they imagine how nice it would be to be able to do whatever they like.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Caroline W. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons to work on classroom management
In reality, a certain amount of discipline is necessary to achieve learning goals, and a class without any discipline is as likely to be miserable for the students as for the teacher. When discipline fails, a class descends into chaos. Children are more likely to be bullied by their peers, and some may also be unintentionally injured by out-of-control students acting dangerously. Whether they realize it or not, most children like structure and they gain confidence in an environment that is appropriately regulated.
Not only does discipline make learning possible and reduce the risk of harm to the students, but it can also be a positive experience for both students and teachers. Numerous discipline techniques involve no shouting or hitting.
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Classroom management techniques
Some of these techniques should be employed from the beginning of the first class day. Rules need to be set out clearly from the start, not made up as the teacher goes along. Teachers should also establish themselves as an authority in the class. I refer to this trait as "unflappability." Children should be able to look to a teacher whenever they do not know what to do, and a teacher should take responsibility for determining how to proceed. Teachers should never betray that they are rattled or stressed. Teachers should also not address students on the student level. Arguing with a student about whether a rule is important, for example, merely weakens a teacher's authority, as it suggests that a student may decide for him or herself whether a rule is important. Also, it is important not to allow small children to hit a teacher or insult a teacher, even in play, as this encourages disrespectful behavior. Children should see the teacher as an adult, not as a large child that can be taken on at their level.
None of this needs to be negative. A teacher can build rapport with students in a teacher/student relationship. Students are often deeply flattered to be asked their names and their interests. They also often enjoy being asked to help set up desks or wash chalkboards--positive interactions by which they can establish a healthy relationship with their teacher and with other students. Encouraging students and commenting on their good behavior can be more effective than negative reactions in causing children to behave appropriately.
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As a class moves on past the opening phase, one of the keys to the maintenance of discipline is keeping students busy and providing enough variety in the lesson to prevent boredom. Bad behavior often results from students attempting to liven up a dull moment. Keeping students engaged in the lesson provides less opportunity for them to act out. Teachers also need to monitor the class and react to developing situations before they become crises. If two students seem to be teaming up for trouble, moving them to different seats may solve the problem. If a student is being bullied, then immediate action must be taken to protect the student.
Concluding a well-disciplined class includes making sure that students understand expectations. Homework assignments should be made clear, and students should know what will happen if they fail to turn in their homework. Teachers must be careful to obey their own rules in this regard. If a teacher allows too many exceptions, then students begin to expect no consequences and get angry if they receive any.
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A well-organized class with a teacher who is a positive authority figure prevents most discipline problems from developing into serious issues. Discipline is something teachers should seek to establish--not as a negative thing (shouting, hitting, criticizing), but as a positive thing (encouraging, rewarding, and building rapport). Being "unflappable" as a teacher builds student confidence in the class, and teachers should address issues immediately, not wait for them to develop into full crises. With these techniques, the learning environment can be a positive experience for everyone.
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