Now for the best advice I have ever gotten when it comes to discipline. I will certainly give credit when I can remember who deserves it. I am in no way your example as a teacher, but if I have learned anything that works, I am glad to share it. These have worked. Don’t feel you must agree with me on these, but we are all in this together. Some days, it’s us versus them.
1. Make your rules clear, brief and to the point. Have them posted in your room. Go over them the first week or first few days. Do this in a very businesslike manner. Notice I didn’t say mean, rude or confrontational manner. Just be firm. It’s your classroom when it comes to behavior. Students should have input, but in my opinion, not in the area of behavior. Know exactly what you will do when a student commits a certain crime.
2. ” Never let ’em see you sweat. Don’t stand behind the podium: get in front of it. You may be shaking in your shoes, but don’t show it.” Rayburn Moore, South Side High School, Jackson Tennessee. No fear, friends. There’s a time for fun, laughter, games, but not during the times when you are trying to establish discipline.
3. Don’t forget to use humor. My first rule is “Be respectful”. This includes me and all of their classmates. I like to leave the consequences of some of my rules to mystery (Mary Louise Arnold, South Side High School, Jackson, Tennessee). I do explain that I am the younger sister to an older brother (David Jolley). He could always beat me up and I carried a constant bruise on my left arm from daily poundings–sorry, mom. I developed a very smart mouth from that experience which my husband and daughters can testify to, and I can’t exactly tell you what might come out when or if a student becomes rude to me or someone else in my class. My students think this is funny. I also tell them that Madea will come visit if needed and like to use the phrase “Don’t make me go all Madea”. They also think this is humorous, but then, at some point, they realize I wasn’t kidding.
4. You will have to make a believer out of someone (Dr. Peggy Smith, North Side High School, Jackson, Tennessee). There is what I like to call a two week honeymoon period. You have gone over your rules, moving along in what you think is a nice manner, and then…5 people are late to class for no apparent reason. What happened? You will now have to put your money where your mouth is. Do this calmly.
5. So following #4 is the manner in which to carry out that discipline: firmly and calmly. No yelling. For example, 5 students do walk in my class late with no administrator notes or other things that would clearly make this o.k. What do I do? Again, I credit Jane Williams with showing me how to do this. Calmly, tell them to sign a demerit sheet which is our punishment or follow through with whatever the punishment is. This is when it matters most. The rest of the class is watching! There’s no need for dwelling on this or embarrassment. Make it quick and easy. I have often heard that a quick, clean cut heals faster and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it does work in the classroom.
6. Treat students always with respect. When I have a student issue, I talk with them privately in the hallway. This is not anyone’s business and you never need an audience. I do make it very clear that unless I am satisfied with the outcome of our conversation if the topic is disrupting my classroom, then this darling will not be reentering the room with me. Their destination will be elsewhere.
7. Do not take the behavioral offenses personally. Welcome to the world of kids. This is what they do. Until they are nearly 21, research tells us that they do not have the capacity to make the right choices. They need us to teach them. This is the most important part of what we do–teach how to behave and respect for authority. We do not do this because we have some massive ego but because I am teaching them a basic tenet of life. I submit to authority everyday: you do also. Many do not come to us having been taught that at home.
8. Never argue with a student. You will not win. A professor at Union University told us this one and I cannot remember who. So, let’s go back to those 5 sweethearts who were late to your class. 4 out of 5 sign the demerit sheet or proceed to take their discipline like a man and you have gone back to what you were teaching. But #5, stands there, staring at you with an extremely unpleasant look on his/her precious face. You must now still calmly try to get him/her to do what you’ve asked–maybe this student was confused. He/She begins to say how this isn’t fair, he/she is not signing anything…now what? My response to a 9th grader which is what I teach is, “Get out. Stand in that hallway and wait for me and when I am ready, I will come talk to you. If an administrator walks by and asks what you are doing, tell them.” This tends to send a deafening silence throughout the room. I always leave that child standing in the hallway for several minutes in order to give him/her some “think” time and to prove that I run my classroom. I will not allow a student to disrupt our learning. Tori Johnson‘s mom Pam Cullens told me the best story of what her dad said to a ninth grade boy in the hallway once during a “come to Jesus” meeting and it still makes me laugh. Message me Tori and I will tell you what he said. The rest of you can probably guess.
9. Do everything in your power to make your class a place they want to be. Make it fun. Boredom breeds trouble. I know this is difficult, I teach English! A bored class is going to be trouble. Remember college and high school when you got bored?
10. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, and pray more. God made these children and knows them best. He knows what will work and what will not. We do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2) Wisdom comes from God, and God alone and I would be terrified if I thought I was entering that classroom without an Almighty God with me. I must love the unlovables and I cannot do that without the power of Christ in me.
Now, one more time, repeat after me:
I am an excellent teacher. I have been called to teach and I am ready. I am prayed up, rested and today is the day that the Lord has made. God disciplines those He loves and I must also. I will not back away from this. I will be gentle when needed, firm when necessary and if Madea must come visit, so be it. It’s my classroom or better yet, it’s God’s. If I have a bad day, I will refer to the other article and follow the appropriate steps back to sanity. I will remember that everyday is fresh and new with God and Mrs. McBroom (or you). Teaching isn’t for whiners or the faint hearted, but I have a job to do and I will now do it. Then come the end of May, I will party like there is no tomorrow (my version of a party; remember, I am a Christ follower). I will have changed the world one child at a time.
And I now praying for all those who will read this. We got this–go get ’em.