Behavior - Discipline - Teach
Many teachers and schools struggle with student behaviors and discipline problems. This is not something new and there is really no magic answer. But you can possibly diminish teacher and administration struggles and frustrations with a few simple steps involving where you place your focus of instruction. There is no question that there are special students who bring challenges to our schools and classrooms in which special arrangements might need to be implemented for the safety of the student, other students, and staff. What we are looking at is discipline disruptions and annoyance behavior that takes away from instructional time in the classroom during such things as lining up, washing hands, and other transitional activities. With a few simple steps, many of these frustrations and loss of instructional time may be relieved, therefore relieving some personal stress on staff.
If we are working in schools everyone in the building is a “teacher” in some form or way. Therefore, if we are all teachers we need to remember that teaching children how to behave is part of our jobs. Telling someone what to do is only part of teaching. As educators, we know other elements need to be added such as modeling, practice, and sometimes review. Many times we assume the students know, but do they actually know exactly what you are expecting? If as teachers we assume they do not know then we can teach the expected behavior. To achieve this when a disruption occurs instead of stopping and talking with the student about it, “teach” the students what you expect to be occurring. If this disruption is something you have taught already, stop and give a reminder by using a question such as, “Is this the way we wash our hands?” If that statement doesn’t change their behavior it is time for a reteach.
Looking deeper into this process, assessments are a daily part of education. Therefore use questioning as a form of formative assessment with the students. When you see a student running, asked them, “Did I see you running?” That’s it, and see what they do. Some will drop their heads, others will start walking, while others will go back to the end of the hall and walk. This puts the responsibility on the student and removes the school staff from disciplining to educating. With consistent efforts and reteaching when necessary, the simple question, in most cases, turns to behavior back to positive.
Quite often it seems many problems that arise in classrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds, and school hallways are due to assumptions. We assume the student knows not to run in the halls, which is a common one. There are other routines we can assume the students should know how to do from year-to-year, such as checking out library books, paying for lunches, using the restrooms, turning in papers, and the list goes on. By changing our focus from discipline to teaching we change the words we use and turn the negative into a positive. Students come from all over the world into our building and at one time we could assume when they came to school all would know how to use the restrooms. This is no longer the case in the world we live in today. Therefore it becomes important as a school that we put everything into teaching mode and not assume they know how things are done. We should not discipline a person for dropping the toilet paper on the floor after using the restroom. We do not know if that child has ever been taught that in most cases in America it is okay to flush the toilet paper. Many places have a garbage for you to drop the toilet paper in, and there was not a garbage can so they left it on the floor. This may seem to be an extreme example yet it is observed in many buildings especially with younger students.
As teachers we are not there to discipline students but to teach. Only we often forget that teaching social behaviors is part of the instruction process. There is no question that many years ago there were social norms and expectations and the majority of families and schools and classrooms leaned on the leadership from the homes to develop those. Today we find a multitude of cultures and backgrounds coming into our classrooms therefore it becomes key we teach school and classroom expectations so everyone has the understanding and the ability to be successful. Often there are children who are “disciplined” for actions they had no idea were considered inappropriate. Now the question becomes who is in the wrong, student or teacher because we should not impose a punishment on something the person has no idea is wrong or unacceptable. Therefore it becomes our responsibility to include lessons on expected behaviors in our schools and classrooms.
By changing our focus from discipline to teaching we change the synergy in our teaching which then impacts the atmosphere in the building positively. By taking simple steps of examining the behaviors you struggle within your school or classroom you can then begin to develop instruction to address those situations and focus more on teaching concepts. Classrooms will have more time to focus on academics and not spending energy on the negative impacts of discipline.