My Philosophy on The Classroom Discipline
Discipline is an important aspect of any classroom working with younger students. I currently work at a middle school, and discipline is foundational to creating an inclusive, welcoming classroom environment. Adolescents at this stage are typically very confrontational towards authority and are testing the waters to what they can get away with, or disobey their teachers. I’ve noticed that teachers who set strict rules at the beginning of the year, tend to have an easier time maintaining authority in the classroom and keeping students engaged.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Veronica T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
As I’m considering how to start my classroom, I think I would go over basic rules of respecting one another and also explain my expectations I have of a student. I think it’s also important to get students' feedback when setting the tone for a classroom; asking them what they think should be a rule in the classroom. This keeps the students more engaged, and “buy into” the rules, or accept them more fully. I think it’s important to often refer to the classroom rules throughout the year. It’s also helpful to keep a poster or chart of your classroom rules on the walls, in an easily visible area to remind students of behavior expectations. Examples of posters I’ve seen at the middle school I work at include phrases “be respectful, be kind, be inclusive to others”. Also, all 7th-grade classrooms have a “SLANT” poster in their room. SLANT stands for sit up, listen, be attentive, nod your head, and track the speaker. Teachers say slant when they have noticed students are wandering off task, or not listening during instruction.
Approach to Solving Problems
I use a collaborative problem-solving approach to working with students. This means that I see all misbehavior as a lack of skills in the student. A student may act out with poor behaviors if they lack emotional regulation skills, attention issues, social behaviors, communication skills, etc. Poor behavior indicates a lack of coping skills. I try to assume they every student is doing their best to behave appropriately, and if they act out it just indicates that they need to be taught certain skills to regulate their emotions, and ability to succeed in an academic environment.
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When I think of skills to teach middle school students, I think of helping students with cognitive processing by breaking up tasks into chunks. This tends to clear up any confusion on assignments and classroom activities, which makes it less likely a student will act out, or be off task. I also think it’s important to have students repeat back instructions you’ve just given, to show that they understand what is expected of them. Chunking assignments help all students, but especially those with attention issues that would start to act out if they are confused. I also think it’s important to be clear in how students should communicate with each other in the classroom. If they are physically shoving, poking, running, yelling at each other-- these types of behaviors must be called out as defiant. The best way to prevent these behaviors from happening is by setting clear expectations and giving students reminders. When students have “crossed a line” with their behaviors- or haven’t changed when given several directives, students should know they are being “written up” a referral or their parents may be called. Students that continue poor behaviors should be given detentions, and possibly have their parents called if necessary.
The last skill set that students are sometimes lacking is emotional regulation. When I worked at a shelter for homeless and runaway youth, is when I learned the most about how to help adolescents regulate their emotions. For many students, it’s teaching them to identify when they are getting angry, sad, or frustrated, and “taking a break”. Taking a break could mean, sitting in the hallway for several minutes, going to a separate student support services room, meeting with a counselor, etc. If adolescents come to you in distress, it’s important to let them vent out any frustrations they may have. Listening to their problem is essential. Next, helping students identify what behavior they should do next, or identify what behaviors they had that weren’t appropriate responses. Once you’ve helped a student process their emotions, they can identify what behaviors they should do differently. For example, instead of getting angry at another student and exploding, they could signal the teacher that they need a break. This example is rather developed, once a teacher has gained a rapport with a student. My main point is that you can teach students how to self-regulate and process their emotions, and then react more appropriately when they are upset in the future.
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Overall, I remember that the word discipline comes from disciple, which means “to teach”. Discipline is essentially teaching students how to regulate their behaviors themselves. A teacher needs to be firm in their rules and consequences in the classroom, but it’s equally important to emphasize teaching students skills so they can improve their self-regulation and future behaviors.
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