Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why I'll Never Be a "Good Disciplinarian"

Subtitle: and why I'm not sure I care.

I realized the other day that as I get older and more experienced as a teacher, it has added absolutely nothing to my classroom management skills. Well, scratch that. Wrong phrase. Experience has added absolutely nothing to my abilities to fairly discipline my students when needed. Recently, I've thought a bit about why that is.

First is the way I present myself in the classroom. This has a lot to do with it. Were I 6'7", 280 lbs. and could shoot lasers out of my eyes, I'd probably be a little better at having my students settle down when necessary. But I'm not. I'm 5'8", 150 lbs. (soaking wet), and I sit on tables and desks to talk with my students, with no laser-eyeballs. Not that this means I'm not going to be able to have my students listen to me, but it's a piece of the puzzle.

Secondly, I don't have a thunderous voice. I have a fairly mild-mannered way of speaking, and that adds to the thought that I'm a mild-mannered person who can be taken advantage of. Mild-mannered? Yes. Able to be taken advantage of? No. But again, a piece of the puzzle.

Thirdly -- and this is the big one -- I honestly believe that my students best learn -- in ALL aspects -- by making choices and having natural consequences happen. This means that they may choose to do their homework or not. I'm not going to force them. They may study or not. This also means they may choose to pay attention or not. I'll ask them to make the best choices, and I'll give honest reasons why they should. But ultimately, if they're going to zone out or misbehave in class or what have you, that's their choice. My main issue is when it affects the choices others are trying to make as well. That's where consequences need to come in.

And this is where I have difficulty. I'm not completely certain how to continue to have natural consequences when someone's talking is impairing someone else's learning. I'm not going to remove them from the classroom. I'm not going to give them all the attention they want. But I also can't let them continue to disrupt the class. Overall, I believe I need to do a better job of engaging them, but there are still times in every classroom that everyone needs to be able to silently pay attention to another person in the room, be it teacher, classmate, or whomever. I'm not sure how best to accomplish this.

We talk a lot in my room about why we need to act certain ways in certain situations. The consequences of our actions, especially when it comes to others. But how do I enforce this? It seems like any external consequence (demerits, detentions, name-on-the-board, whatever) cheapen the authenticity of my classroom. Is it possible to have an effective classroom management plan in place with real consequences that is also authentic?


  1. I feel like I have the same problem sometimes, and the fact that most of my classes are Jr. High classes makes this worse. I find that this style works much better with older students in my 1 or 2 high school classes than it does with younger ones, hence my recent frustration with my Jr. High crazies. I wish I could rely more on my students to police themselves.

  2. I've been teaching for over 20 years, and still have trouble (with CC students!). I agree with your analysis. I think there are solutions, but I'm not there yet.