Tips for Achieving and Maintaining Discipline

Discipline is not about getting kids to do what you want them to do. That’s what dictators do, and you’re not a dictator—you’re an educator. Discipline is providing an environment in which positive teaching and positive learning can occur simultaneously. Discipline is not control from the outside; it’s order from within.

Some practical and universal ideas that will help you achieve discipline in your classroom.

  • Greet students at the door. Interact with your students on a personal level every day. Greet them by name, interject a positive comment or observation, shake their hand, and welcome them into the classroom. This sets a positive tone for a lesson or for the day.
  • Get students focused before you begin any lesson. Be sure you have their attention before you begin. Don’t try to talk over students; you’ll be initiating a competition to see who can speak louder and also let them know it’s okay to talk while you are talking.
  • Use positive presence. Don’t park yourself in the front of the classroom. Move around the room continuously, and get in and around your students. Make frequent eye contact, and smile with students. Monitor students with your physical presence.
  • Model the behavior you want students to produce. If you exhibit respectfulness, trust, enthusiasm, interest, and courtesy in your everyday dealings with students, they will return the favor in kind. Remember the saying, “Values are caught, not taught.”
  • Use low-profile intervention. When you see a student who is misbehaving, be sure your intervention is quiet, calm, and inconspicuous. Use the student’s name in part of your presentation, for example, “As an example, let’s measure Michael’s height in centimeters.” Michael, who has been whispering to his neighbor, hears his name and is drawn back into the lesson with no disruption of the class.
  • Verbal reprimands should be private, brief, and as immediate as possible. The more private a reprimand, the less likely you will be challenged. The more immediate the reprimand, the less likely the student will feel you condone her or his behavior. And keep reprimands brief. The more you talk, the more you distract from the lesson and the more you “reward” a student for inappropriate behavior.
  • Provide lots of positive feedback. Many veteran teachers will tell you, “10 percent of the students will give you 90 percent of your headaches!” But what about the 90 percent of those other students in your classroom? Don’t forget them; recognize their contributions and behavior:
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.
  • Acknowledge positive student behavior when it is not expected.

 Watch out for these mistakes regarding an appropriate discipline policy.

  • Teach students to listen. We sometimes make the mistake of repeating the same instructions several times. When we do that, we teach students not to listen. Give a request only twice, and let students know that after two times they will be on their own.
  • Don’t be their friend. It’s your nature to be caring, considerate, outgoing, and sensitive. After all, you’re a teacher! But when you become your students’ friend, you lose their respect. Yes, it’s important that you be a role model and someone they can look up to and trust. It’s important that you care about them. But don’t ever try to be their friend.
  • Keep your administrator informed. As you craft your classroom discipline policy, be sure you run it by your principal first. Get her or him involved, and let that individual know what your rules are, how you plan to enforce them, and how your classroom rules are in line with any rules and regulations of the school.
  • Keep parents informed, too. Good classroom discipline does not exist in isolation from the discipline practiced at home or in the local community. Inform parents of your expectations for students though newsletters, phone calls, parent-teacher conferences, or other means of communication. When parents know what you expect, they will be more supportive of your actions.
  • Watch out for an excess of negative comments. Frame your comments, suggestions, and behavior modification in positive terms, such as, “Let’s walk silently down the right side of the hallway,” or “I really like when you come into the room ready to work.”
  • Teach your students proper discipline. During the first week of school, establish a set of expectations, the specific details of those expectations, and the consequences if those expectations are not followed. Nothing is more important than a well-crafted and well-articulated discipline policy. If it’s true that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the time you take at the start of the school year will pay enormous dividends throughout the rest of the school year.

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