How do you handle discipline?
Discipline is one of those things that each teacher handles differently. Some teachers are very friendly and lax with the rules, some are very stern, others use humor to diffuse situations. Most teachers tend to incorporate all of theses strategies and many more at different points in the year. I developed my Discipline Action Plan to bring some consistency to the discipline in my classroom. However, the biggest benefit is how it encourages students to think about their behavior instead of the punishment.
Get your students to think about their behavior!
Have you ever sent a student into the hall or to the back of the room because of disruptive behavior? Most of us have. You may be busy teaching, need to get through instructions or finish notes and you don’t have time in that moment to take the student aside to discuss the disruption. So the student goes into the hall or moves seats and, let’s be honest, thinks about how much they dislike you instead of thinking about their behavior. With my Discipline Action Plan I have changed this “down time” into productive “thinking time”. Now, I hand the student a clipboard with the form on it and direct them to a seat in the back of the room. While I continue the lesson they can now spend that time answering questions that are designed to get them to think about their behavior and who that behavior is affecting. They are no longer sitting idle, building up anger towards you.
In addition to being aware of their own behavior, this also guides students to propose solutions to prevent the behavior. It’ll depend on your students but I sometimes take time to teach them how to fill out this form within the first month of school, specifically, “the solution” portion. Setting goals and making plans is always difficult for students so going through a practice example is helpful. The first question in the solution portion asks “What can YOU do to make sure this problem stops happening?” I make it clear that answers like “stop doing it” are not helpful to them or me. We want an actual plan to stop the behavior. For example, if a student is constantly making noise that is distracting others. A good plan might include doing something quiet like play with a rubber band or doodling instead of creating the noise.
What does the student need
After the plan section, I include a question that asks “What can your teacher do to help you be successful?” Students are given very few opportunities to ask teachers for something specific. For example, what if your student is making noise because when you are on the other side of the room he can’t hear you speaking? This section allows your student to ask for things that only you can provide in your classroom, things that you may not even be aware of! Once, this helped me understand that a student who would get angry and say inappropriate things when I called on her was suffering from crippling anxiety. She was simply terrified of speaking in front of the class or embarrassing herself so she lashed out instead. She may never have told me that if I hadn’t given her this opportunity to confide in me.
The MOST important part
The absolute most important part of this process is the discussion. After the student has filled out their section and returned it to you, you must find the time to discuss the situation with the student. I usually read it out loud to them and acknowledge their description and feelings. Then add or correct things in the “teacher” section if needed. But I do it as a discussion with them, telling them what I will write before I write it and asking them if they agree. This is vital to the success of this method because students must feel that you are working with them instead of dictating to them. If you are unable to do this from a place other than anger, it’s best have the discussion the next day when things will have cooled off.
If they don’t take it seriously
This works about 90% of the time. We all know that there is no one discipline strategy that will work on every kid, every time. Kids are still kids so you will occasionally run into the kid that doesn’t take this seriously and what they want is for you to “jump off the roof”. (true story) This is OK, because now you have a written record (in their own handwriting) of their behavior and their lack of cooperation. Let’s face it, in this day and age teachers must be able to document everything! Proper documentation, especially documentation written by the student, goes a long way in getting the parents and administration on your side.
Building self-aware students
Before long, you will begin to notice that those students that caused the most problems are now your best students. In my experience, this helps to build trust between you and your students. They begin to realize that you just want to help them and others be successful. Yeah, they don’t all just assume that! I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me and my students.
If you have tried this, please let us know how it went in the comments section!