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Classroom discipline is very important for effective teaching and learning, yet it constitutes one of the biggest teacher challenges nowadays. Before teaching a new class, teachers should work intensively on their classroom management strategies for achieving school discipline.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about keeping your classroom in order!
To define discipline, one must refer to the strategies a teacher uses to manage student behaviors during lessons, as well as the code of behavior that the students must comply with. This code of behavior usually includes rules of attendance, dress code, social behavior, and work ethic. The term may also be applied to the punishment that is the consequence of the transgression of the code of behavior.
The three types of discipline are preventative, supportive, and corrective discipline.
Discipline in school life is extremely important, as it sets the foundations for students’ success later in life. Discipline is a transferrable skill in life and it can bring on many virtues, such as professional success through being focused and staying healthy. Discipline is what helps students achieve good performance in school and it is responsible for keeping order in the classroom.
Poor classroom management affects students’ motivation, which inevitably negatively impacts their academic performance. Teachers who fail to manage a classroom effectively by not setting rules and routines and doing inadequate preparation create learning environments that are chaotic and counterproductive for learning.
Even the most experienced teachers have to face classroom discipline problems. Unruly students’ behavior means that instructional time is lost and students get off task. It is a teacher’s job to figure out why a discipline problem occurs and how to best solve it in a well-managed learning environment.
There are many reasons that cause discipline problems in the classroom. Handling discipline problems requires sensitivity and insight on part of the teacher, in order to understand the root of the issue.
Some common causes of discipline issues in the classroom include problems at home (e.g. if a student is experiencing an emotionally turbulent time at home) and learning disabilities, like ADD, which can cause a lack of focus. Discipline problems in the classroom are also more likely to arise if there is a lack of clear communication about the rules and consequences for breaking them.
Some common disruptive behaviors in the classroom include: talking in class, late arrivals or early departures, persistent use of electronic devices, eating, drinking, or sleeping in class, and, more seriously, threats of violence and physical and verbal aggression.
There are two categories of disruptive behaviors in the class: minor and major.
Disruptive behavior by students interferes with the teacher’s ability to effectively deliver a lesson, as it requires a large amount of the teacher’s time and attention in order to be addressed. Disruptive students can also influence their peers with their actions and encourage them to behave similarly, compromising the teacher’s authority.
According to research conducted by the United Federation of Teachers, exposure to even mild classroom disruptions lowers the academic achievement for all students in a class. Constant interruptions can interfere with focus and detract from learning.
There are many different types of disruptive behaviors that can prevent effective teaching and learning and, so, it is vital that teachers work on perfecting their practices for managing them.
Teachers should create classroom behavioral expectations from the first day of class by outlining both productive and disruptive types of behavior, the process by which disruptive behavior will be addressed, and the consequences for ongoing disruptive behavior.
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A noisy classroom is a very common occurrence that can be disruptive to the teaching and learning processes, whether it is caused by students raucously returning to class from their breaks or classmates gossiping together during lessons.
The best way to ensure a quiet classroom is by cultivating a peaceful atmosphere and establishing respect for the teacher from the get-go. You must set the tone and expectations on your first day, making students understand the classroom is a place for learning and not socializing.
To quieten chatter in a class, resist raising your voice, which only works to encourage more noise. Help students familiarize themselves with your non-verbal cues for quietening down the class, which include hand signals, counting down backward from 5 until silence is achieved, or clapping.
Disruptive students can be a big distraction in class. Even when teachers clearly set boundaries for behavior, disruptions may occasionally take place. Teachers should be careful to assess each incident individually and respond appropriately, as causes for disruptive behavior can vary.
In all cases, teachers must remain calm and firm when addressing disruptive students, explaining to them what it is that they are doing wrong, why it is a problem, and what the proper behavior is. It is important to listen to what students have to say and make them feel understood.
Here are several phrases that you can learn by heart and apply during your class in case of disruptions. Remember that it’s not only your words that matter but also your polite and friendly intonation and your overall teacher’s confidence.
Psychologists suggest that teachers use the following phrases if they want to stop a conflict as quickly as possible:
Here is an insightful video on how to deal with your students’ challenging behavior:
Even though teachers are allowed to yell at students in order to discipline them, it is not advisable as it sets a poor model. Yelling is a sign of loss of control that can be counterproductive, driving a wedge between a teacher and his or her students and provoking fear.
There are plenty of methods that do not involve yelling that a teacher can use to maintain order and control in their classroom. Establishing routines with students from the beginning of the year is particularly vital to maintaining good discipline, while a variety of classroom management techniques (such as countdowns and revoking privileges) can help you gain control of unruly students.
The student-teacher relationship can be complicated and it is not unusual for students to end up in conflict with their teachers. Some conflicts are healthy and arise naturally through debates due to competing ideas on various issues.
However, if the conflict persists and appears to be antagonistic in nature, you should address this directly with your students. Listen to them to get their perspectives and carefully explain your position on the conflict in a way they understand. Teachers can seize this opportunity to teach their students the rules of civic discourse and effective self-expression. When you have tried everything to no avail, try getting assistance from a colleague, the principal, or administration.
Aggressive students often antagonize others and are drawn to physical fights or verbal arguments. Aggression constitutes severe misbehavior and should, therefore, be dealt with accordingly, with stiff consequences that send a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
If you are breaking up a fight between students, you must remain assertive and speak in a firm, no-nonsense manner. If necessary, you could consider giving the aggressive student a time-out, separating them from the rest of the class.
Argumentative students who disrupt the class can be difficult to handle. If you are wondering how to discipline an argumentative student, the answer is to try to understand the motives for their behavior and allow them to be heard without losing your temper. This will help you get to the root of the problem.
While confronting the student, you must show them that you have control over the situation by being firm and outlining the consequences of their actions. Speak with the student privately and create a behavior management plan for them to deal with possible anger management issues.
When confronted with disrespect, an easy mistake to make is to take it personally. Disrespect can be an indication of complex psychological issues that a student is facing. Resist the urge to admonish, scold, or lecture the disrespectful student and respond with kindness instead, modeling the type of behavior the student should ideally be exhibiting.
Turn the incident into a memorable lesson for the student by delivering consequences, but ensure to do this privately, rather than shaming them in front of their peers. For overt disrespect, students’ parents should be notified by letter, an act which adds a layer of seriousness and accountability.
It is very important that teachers talk to the parents of disturbing students who are constantly making trouble. Empathize with the student and try to get to the bottom of their behavior, while staying in close proximity with their family to monitor progress.
Discuss the behavior with your colleagues, in order to develop a common and consistent approach for dealing with the student. Above all, while dealing with a disturbing student, you should remember that it takes time for problematic behavior to change so stay patient and positive.
Before proceeding with student punishment, teachers should think carefully and understand its pros and cons. While punishing students can quickly stop a problem, it tends to be a short-term solution that can often be accompanied by negative side-effects, such as a drop in positive attitudes toward school and a more negative perception of teachers.
Punishment is defined as inflicting a penalty as retribution for a transgression. According to that definition, since students often commit transgressions, it would make sense to punish them for bad behavior.
However, teachers must refrain from applying such a “black and white” approach to dealing with unruly behavior and use critical thinking instead to determine whether punishment is necessary. Teachers should always consider alternative options for dealing with bad behavior, before proceeding with punishment.
In most of the Western world, acceptable forms of punishment include but are not limited to demerit systems, daily report or behavior contracts, apologies, time-out, detentions, being made to write essays, and being made to pick up litter around the school.
A study conducted by Unicef identified over 43 types of punishment that were being given to students at schools around the world a decade ago, including physical punishment (e.g. smacking) and psychological punishment (e.g. verbal abuse and isolation).
Punishment in schools differs widely from country to country. For example, while Sweden has made corporal punishment illegal, it remains popular in Nigeria.
In the majority of Western countries, any type of physical punishment is unacceptable as it is illegal and constitutes criminal assault. While some schools use physical exercise as a form of punishment (i.e. press-ups, sit-ups, running) and it is not illegal, it is not considered acceptable as it is cruel and can be degrading for students.
Collective punishment is the term used to describe the situation when a group of students, for example, a whole class or a whole grade, is punished for the actions of one or a few students. Examples of collective punishment include being taken off recess early or the class being banned from using a certain recreation area.
Most schools do not allow collective punishment, as it is known to demotivate well-behaved students and is unlikely to improve the offender’s behavior according to a 2019 study.
Knowing how to maintain student discipline in a classroom can be one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. Teachers must learn to evaluate situations on their individual merits in order to know how to respond, distinguishing between minor and major disruptive behaviors and delivering the appropriate consequences and punishments where necessary, always according to school policies.
In case of severe problems with classroom management and students that are unresponsive to corrections, teachers should reach out to colleagues for support and involve administration and the student’s family when necessary.
Need more information on the topic? Read these outstanding books and articles written by successful educators who managed to take classroom discipline under their control: