Monday, October 13, 2008

Discipline--Everything I ever needed to know, I learned in my classroom

Today I want to brainstorm a list of strategies that WORK in the field of discipline. I want your help!

First, I have to say that my ideas come from twenty-two years in the classroom and a lot of error and trials. Mostly errors. I am not an expert, I only play one in my classroom.

Second, we must agree that what works for me would absolutely and positively work for you, but ONLY if you had the same kids, with the same background, and the same rapport with said children. So, in other words, one size does NOT fit all.

Third, we will have to agree that nothing works if we are not fair and consistent. And I MEAN IT! The kid has to know that whatever you do, you do it to everyone and you do the same thing everytime. No exceptions.

After sitting through (enduring really) a Harry Wong video, I will agree on one thing. Routine is important. Harry and I agree that having a routine for what you do will help kids get going. In high school chorus, when the attendance taker begins, the talking stops. When the piano starts playing the warm-up, the kids stand and begin. No words necessary. Please note that this took approximately three sentences to share and not a half hour of video time....but I digress.

Here are some things that have worked. Oddly, this year I have tried something new with the big kids...which is to point out that some of their behaviors are disrespectful to me. Now, if they didn't want to demonstrate their respect, this obviously wouldn't work....And it doesn't work for every kid. Most kids really want to please a positive adult who cares about them.

Explain why the rules are important TO YOU. I worked with At-Risk kids for the past few years and I noticed that one thing that seemed to really make them stumble was when a rule seemed arbitrary. So, when explaining rules, I let students know why it is important. For example, one of my rules is to keep the chairs on all four legs. The reason I have that rule is because every year, a kid leans back and goes all the way over and smacks their head. The explanation makes the rule make sense. No one wants to be embarrassed. Without explanation, it is just the cranky teacher making up rules.

Some really strange things I have tried.... I have an advisee group. They meet 15 minutes per day. They are supposed to work on homework and make sure they have it all written down. I used to H A T E that time because it was me trying to corral 8 sets of raging hormones. No grade to hold over their head and most of them had very little rapport. So, I made the deal that if they went X number of days without talking, we would have a game day. Number of game days?? 1 It took too long for them to earn a day and so they stopped trying. So, I then decided that the last 4 minutes would be game time if they got the required things done. Now it works almost every time! Immediate gratification.

The time I got in the greatest amount of trouble?? Well, I had an advisee group a number of years ago that was TERRIBLE to one kid. I tried everything I knew how to do and I couldn't make a difference. Then, I decided to hit them where it hurt. (No, not there). In the wallet. Every time someone said something mean to that kid, they owed a quarter. If the fund was less than $20, I would chip in money and we would have an amazing pizza party at the end. If the amount was more than $20, all of the money went to charity. I ended up making up the difference and celebrating with the group. . . Wait, are you wondering how I got in trouble?? The new teacher next door tried to do the same thing with her group....unfortunately she didn't have one student that all the others picked on, and therefore it caused parents to question why the new teacher needed the money of children. Obviously, one size does not fit all and I was given a pass by the parents of students in my room because the parents knew me. I was actually criticized (loudly) on the phone by the parent from the other room.

My last point here, is sometimes it is good to know the root of the problem and sometimes, there is a clear cut root. Problems at home, with other classes, or problems that occurred before they got to me can all be in full bloom in my room. I don't always take the time to get to the root of a problem, but I have learned to look for some warning signs along the way. Frequent misbehavior is often a sign of deeper trouble. Ask or refer to someone qualified for deeper understanding.

What tips do you have for newer professionals? What works for you? Maybe even share what didn't work so we all might learn.

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