Friday, August 24, 2012

Principles of Teaching: Discipline in the Classroom


    Discipline is one of the most important if not the most important factor for a successful classroom management. This is also the most difficult to deal with. Nowadays, discipline has changed a lot. Before, discipline is maintained through traditional method or by "iron hand". As a traditional maxim goes, "spare the rod, and spoil the child". However, discipline has become more child-centered and democratic. It has to be taken into account the psychological, physical, social and legal impact a disciplinary action can have on the child.
    As a teacher, I know I still have a lot to learn with regards to maintaining discipline. I have to admit but not all my ways in dealing with discipline problems may not be "right" for others. This is where experience can help a lot. Some methods or ways may not be effective for some students while some work. Results actually vary. But bottomline, no matter what ways we may use, we need to remember the child first. That we must keep in mind that on our way of making our students disciplined is the power of actually breaking or making them.
   Anyway, here are some of the ways in dealing with discipline problems inside the classroom. These are just the first part so please watch for my proceeding posts.

1. Teach them first. Almost always, students exhibit inappropriate behavior because they actually don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. This highlights the importance of orienting the students about do’s and don’ts inside or outside the classroom especially at the beginning of the school year. This way, students will get acquainted on the things they need and avoid to do. They will realize what we expect of them and thus minimizes the likelihood of an inappropriate behavior to occur. 

2. Emphasize positive alternatives. When a student exhibited an inappropriate behavior, focus on the equivalent positive behavior that he/she can do instead of focusing on his negative behavior. For example, a group of boys play with brooms in their “swordplay”. We can intervene by explaining that somebody might get hurt, and that brooms are used for cleaning.  Instead of making the brooms as weapon to fight each other, we can suggest using the brooms for the boys to compete who sweeps or cleans the most dirt in the classroom .

3. Teach empathy. Students have the tendency to be egocentric, most especially the younger ones. This means that they still have to understand empathy, or to be on “someone else’s shoes”. Applying this to discipline, we can make students realize the consequences of an inappropriate behavior to other people. We can let students analyze, “What if we are in the other person’s situation?” or “How will you feel if…”. Through this, we can encourage students to think the cause and effect of their behavior. We teach them the possible impact of a certain behavior to other people, to their surroundings and to different situations. Take note however that we should do this in a sincere and nonjudgmental manner.

4. Lend a hand. Behavior problems caused by lack of self-control like frustration can be resolved by offering the students our help. This could be in a form of a suggestion, a question or even just a simple gesture.  This way, students learn the value of interdependence, that is, certain problems can be solved through a helping hand. For example, if a student got frustrated by a math problem and threw away his notebook, we can address this by giving him encouragement and a motivation to start over. We can even help him solve the first part of the problem then let him finish the task himself.

5. Use I-message. This I-message is an intimate form of communicating your feelings as a teacher about a certain behavior of students. This increases the awareness of the child about the impact of his/her behavior toward others which include you as a teacher. For example, if students are not listening or giving attention to what you are talking, a teacher can address this by saying, “When you are not listening, I feel disrespected. I feel that there is no need for me to teach you anymore. I feel I need to repeat what I have said which takes away our limited time.” However, some of us might find this uncomfortable. Just take note that when saying I-message, it has to be sincere but firm at the same time.

6. Values are caught than taught. Perhaps this is one of the best if not the best way for teachers to reinforce good behavior among students. As teachers, or even just adults, we serve as role models to our students. Some students even look up to us as their idols while some find us more influential than their own parents. For instance, we can never make students the value of cleanliness if we ourselves look untidy and unclean. Or we can never ask students to speak softly while inside the classroom if  we yell to our students on a daily basis.

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