Successful Discipline

April 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm (Uncategorized)

My best class, fourth period, was beginning to get out of hand. This is bad news. I was knee deep in a week long stretch of deteriorating behavior. My CT was consistently out of the room. The kids felt comfortable, too comfortable, with me. My own behavior, by coming out of the gate too lax and self-deprecating, seemed to encourage the students to talk in class, even when I repeatedly asked them not too. But fourth period? Et tu Brute? Fourth period was my dependable “good class,” full of enough shy kids that speaking out of turn was painfully awkward for the few students who would be so inclined.

But yes, even fourth period was now getting out of hand. Speaking out of turn was a small problem, but the bigger one was complaining. Two girls in particular were the culprits. For one, this was a perpetual problem. She had a swagger about her from day one, likely worn as a some sort of misguided self-defense mechanism, that said “I do what I want and don’t care what you think.” But now her neighbor was beginning to get in on the action. As the corrupting influence of the “bad apple” spread around the front left corner of the room like a thick yellow cloud of mustard gas, I got nervous. I couldn’t ask these students to do anything, much less correct behavior in the room, without being met with a chorus of complaints, verbal jabs, or under the breath threats.

Things came to a head when I cracked down on a student who had been whispering the entire day. Her friend, the “bad apple,” took her part, protesting that the girl I had corrected hadn’t been talking. This precipitated a back and forth between me and the two complainers in front of the whole class. Their behavior was so frustrating, so unnecessary, that I almost lost it. I felt in my body surge up a strong desire to close up shop and end the lesson there. I paused for a critical moment, contemplating my options. Thankfully, I chose to move on and finish the lesson.

However, I closed things up a few minutes early that day and asked the two problem students to talk to me outside. This was my first “see me outside” moment, and I was a little nervous. It went well, however. I made it clear my frustration wasn’t personal, that I like both students as people, but that I needed the complaining to stop. They responded mostly with dodging eyes and furrowed brows, but weren’t overtly defiant.

I made sure the next day to greet both of those girls with a smile and a friendly hello the next day. They responded well. I continued to show, through subtle words and actions, that today was a new day, and that I bore no grudge. I’m happy to report that behavior has been a lot better since then. This episode is probably the least of my behavior problems, but surely gives me some hope and some direction when pursuing discipline of students in the future.

And that, I guess, is what student teaching is all about.

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1 Comment

  1. david hicks said,

    nice response- starting the new day afresh — just like a cat- every day is a new day–
    what other ideas do you have to work with some students
    what steps can you move through…
    be careful in cracking the whip too hard- as the shift from nice Mr W to angry Mr W- may be a little out of the blue- students don’t alway see the fine line that you may have…
    think about giving them positive expectations of what you want for the next few weeks – as opposed to things you don’t want
    so you want to see and hear respect- and active listening
    this means listening to each other and avoiding individual conversations that can be distracting… just a thought
    Also you now know the kids- so if they are athletes make connections with their coaches it they are doing good or being a pain- same with parents- some calls home when kids are good – will help…

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