When a student’s behavior or work ethic in the classroom gets in the way of their learning it is important as teachers we take steps to prevent it from happening again or affecting our other students. Disciplining a student is never easy, but it is important to remember to be firm but fair with all of our students.
Discipline is defined as the practice of training people to obey rules or codes of behavior. The purpose of discipline in the classroom should be to model and train students how to work within society. For this reason, rules or codes within the classroom should be community-based and fit the needs of your classroom.
Some things to avoid when disciplining a student:
Avoid Being Unpredictable When Discipling a Student
Firm but fair. These should be the guiding words when disciplining a student. The punishment, if there is one, should fit the crime and should be equitable regardless of who is receiving it.
It is all too easy to really get onto a student who seems to always be acting up for something little and going overboard on disciplining them all while letting the same behavior slide from another student. This can’t happen. You have to choose to either acknowledge and discipline the behavior or ignore it. You can’t have it both ways.
Avoid Jumping to Conclusions When Discipling a Student
It is all too easy to jump to conclusions when disciplining a student. Sometimes we think we saw something that in fact didn’t happen, or at least the way we perceived it.
It is vital we let our students do the talking. Often they will tell us way more than we thought was even a thing. By allowing students to tell their side of the story they are able to get it off their chest and everyone can move forward.
Avoid Disciplining a Student in Public
Praise in public discipline in private. Words to live by.
Embarrassment should never be a part of discipline. The end. If you are using embarrassment to discipline or punish a student you are bullying them.
Instead, take the time to have a private moment with the student in question. This might mean tabling the manner for a few minutes until you can meet. In fact, tabling the matter for a little while can be a positive way to get some perspective before diving in.
Avoid Getting into an Argument
Arguing with a student is never a good look, but it is particularly important to avoid when disciplining because you want your decision to be final.
If a student does argue there are respectful ways of shutting it down. Your job, as the teacher, is to remain calm, cool, and collected throughout the exchange regardless of how the student reacts. If a student cannot keep themselves calm, this is another instance where tabling the matter and revisiting it later is effective.
Avoid Being Rigid
Sometimes when we discipline a student it brings up the need for additional rules or possibly the foolishness of one we already have. The goal of discipline in the classroom is to train our students to be a part of a functioning society with rules, both spoken and not. With this goal in mind, discipline should always lead back to the greater good.
It is all too easy to get stuck thinking our way or the highway, but instead, when a student respectfully disagrees with a rule take the time to examine the rule and its reason in the classroom. Sometimes our students have a point and should be listened to and respected.
Avoid Doing All the Talking
As the teacher, it is easy to have our students do all the listening and us just tell them what is going to happen.
We don’t teach like this anymore, so why in the world would this be how we discipline.
If we truly want our students to learn how to be a part of our classrooms and society we must hear them out from beginning to end. Give your students the opportunity to tell their side of the story without interruption. Listen, nod, and prompt students to tell you more.
Avoid a Lack of Documentation
Document, document, document. No matter how big or small document.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I sought help from either a parent or administrator on the behavior of a student and was asked about documentation. Luckily, I caught onto this quick and begin logging each time I had to speak with a student or otherwise discipline.
Documentation doesn’t have to be fancy. Some examples might be jot notes, sticky notes, or a log in Word. The important things to include are the antecedent, the behavior, the result, any action taken by you, as well as the time and date.
In the End
In the end, the best offense is a good defense, right?
Make sure classroom rules and societal codes are clearly communicated to your students. If they don’t know it is a rule or code, they also won’t know if they are breaking it.
When events do arise be sure to stay consistently firm and fair, give your students the chance to tell their side of the story, stay calm, and document everything.
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