Let’s talk discipline. I will be very honest and open with you: it’s not easy.
I am from West Tennessee, and I have taught high school English for 23 years. Because my husband and I are in ministry, we have moved around some, so there have been times when I took a teaching job, not because it was ideal, but because I needed a job. I have taught every grade level except kindergarten, first, second or third. I have even taught a few years at community colleges. For a season, I taught Physical Science, and for those of you who know me, you know that’s funny. I also taught a business class that taught the basics of budgeting, checking accounts, and I am fairly sure that we were broke the whole time. We had just moved to Middle Tennessee and were sleeping on air mattresses in the basement of my husband’s office building. It was an old house and had bathrooms in this basement, but I began to feel a certain bond to Anne Frank. But, discipline, here comes the West Tennessee honest truth.
First of all, we are spending many hours in professional developments that are focused on strategies. I appreciate that and all the new ideas, but as a veteran at this, I will tell you: there are some kids that can’t think-pair-share. They have been up half the night, haven’t had breakfast, even though it was served free at your school, and quite honestly, some of my juniors aren’t in the mood to “share”. We must address the real problem which is the needs of the student. To have an education is definitely one of them, but to be loved by a caring adult ranks much higher. As a disciplinarian, if you tackle that, regardless of the child’s age, you may be able to get them to be a part of a great strategy that might involve post it notes. I haven’t had a good professional development on disciplinary strategies in years, or ever that I can recall, and it is SO necessary to establish discipline first! There are some excellent books out on this topic, so I recommend that your school buy some of those for you, and my current school did that. Wonderful idea, but how about we talk about it?
So, here goes. These are not necessarily in order:
- Look professional. Get your hair cut, dress in your Sunday best, look like a business person. Your attitude should be very business like for awhile. No playing around. As a high school teacher, I share my expectations very clearly on day one, share pictures and talk about who I am, and then we get down to business.
- Also along the lines of clothing, wear comfortable shoes. I never sit. I should. I have a very cute, padded tall chair. I do ease back on it from time to time, but I hardly ever sit at my desk. When I sit, something happens. It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love interest in Kindergarten Cop said,”You know, kindergarten is like the ocean. You don’t want to turn your back on it.” That’s so true. I don’t turn my back on them either!
- Boredom is very, very bad. Kids need activity. They need to all be doing something that is engaging. Smart boards are great and have some great games, but if those games only involve a handful of kids, beware. I love a document reader or camera type reader. I can write, have kids writing and have my eyes on them the whole time. I love short video clips that have lessons or tie into your lesson. Our kids are techy, and we must get techy also.
- Never let them see you sweat. You may be shaking in your shoes, but they don’t need to know that. They can smell fear. Look them in the eyes. Don’t back down or shy away. Use your teacher voice–take command of this ship. See the pep talk below.
- Be organized. The first of the school year kills us all. We are bombarded with new policies, new dress codes, new systems. None and I repeat, none of these will matter if you do not have your room set up, and you have not thought through your procedures.
- That brings me to procedures. Students need for you to explain everything to them. Tell them how to turn in papers, head papers, staple them, where to place homework, how to line up ( that’s not my world), EVERYTHING.
- Have a seating chart, spot assigned for computer labs, tables…I do not let kids choose where to sit. I typically sit them boy/girl, boy/ girl. If I have two talkers, it’s typically two girls together. Avoid that. Change their seating as much as needed. When I realize two have become best buddies, I move someone. I do this in a very positive way so that no one realizes that the move was about talking or feels as if they did anything wrong.
- After I feel we are getting somewhere, I use humor. Unfortunately, I am the smartest mouth person in the room. This comes from having a big brother. I have a wealth of comebacks, and high school kids think that’s hilarious.
- Do not be rude. There is no excuse for being rude to a child. It is your job to teach behavior. They must behave in the real world, and it starts now. If you are not up for the challenge or don’t like children as a fifth grade teacher told me once, quit. The teaching profession is better off without you.
- Get there early. You will not be sorry. Have everything prepped for the next day before you leave school at the end of the day.
- Get to know your children. God has entrusted you as his/her teacher so start trying to figure out why. Some will love you, some will hate you, some will not care. We are not their friends. You and I have enough friends. If I wanted new friends, it certainly would not be someone who is in high school.
- Put your money where your mouth is. If you say it, do it. Be careful that the punishment meets the crime. Don’t over punish or humiliate a child. Again, there’s no excuse for that regardless of how bad they may act. This has nothing to do with being firm. Be firm, consistent, quick to act and move forward. Don’t dwell on it.
- Have talks with students in the hallway–never in front of the class. It can turn into an arguing match, and you will not win. I like to call them a little come to Jesus meeting. If I am not satisfied with this discussion, I make it clear that one of us is not returning to the classroom, and it’s not me. I also make them not use the pronouns she or he, but I and me. These talks are about the person standing in front of me.
- A little mystery goes a long way. I tell them that I can be slightly Madea like if needed, and there is a small baseball bat in my room. Of course I have never used it and don’t plan on it ever and now you are wondering, is this lady crazy? I just have it around for awhile at the beginning of school and then I bring it home. Usually someone will ask me, “What’s the bat for?” Honestly, I don’t know what it is for either; it just adds mystery.
- Get to know your administrators. Figure out who will support you when needed and become friends with that person. Help them understand that you will handle all problems, thereby helping them out but know who will back you up. I have been so blessed with principals and administrators who totally supported me when I needed help.
- Talk to parents. This is key to discipline and good grades. Find a system for you that works. Y’all are on the same team. Also find out which students play sports or are involved in band. A disruptive student can calm down greatly after a chat with a coach. I have had coaches show up at my door and speak to students in front of me. The point was clearly made and that player got his grades up quickly.
Now this all may sound harsh, but if you know me, you would know that I am not harsh at all. It’s called tough love. Reading some behavior modification techniques from Dr. James Dobson would do anyone a world of good as a teacher and as a parent. One of his most important points is that discipline plus a relationship wins. Discipline without a relationship equals rebellion. There is so much truth to Ephesians 6:4 which states “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” NLT.
God also disciplines those He loves. I like to say God and Mrs. McBroom discipline those they love. Unfortunately, parents are stressed and doing the best they know how within the limitations of their situations and knowledge. That sometimes means that children only learn right behaviors from us. We must teach them in a loving, consistent way.
So here goes the pep talk. Understand that we all have good days and bad days. You have no idea how many times I have said, “Please Jesus, come back today.” Since I am still here and you are to, we have a job that He has called us to. Time to get it in gear.
First, pray. Pray before school, driving to school, during the National Anthem…never stop. LISTEN to the Holy Spirit in you Who knows this child inside and out. If I were not a follower of Jesus Christ and constantly in His Word, praying and seeking HIs guidance, I am positive I would either be crazy or in prison for murder by now. Ok, just kidding. You are still wondering about that bat, aren’t you?
Get a little attitude. You ain’t going down today. No person who is younger than you is going to win. Love will win, and you have an overabundant amount of that. When you think, no, I don’t, God’s love never fails. After a bad day, a good one is coming. Don’t give up–oh, no…NEVER give up. You are an adult. Be in control and act like one.
It is possible that in your door everyday walks a child that lives with an alcoholic mom or dad, one that has been molested or maybe raped, one that has been physically or verbally abused, or one that has never felt unconditional love like that of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is staggering that this is even possible, but I have taught long enough to know that it is very likely. God loves us just like we are, and my parents modeled this for me daily. So many children of all ages have no idea how that feels. As a teacher, your most important job is to love. Don’t lose sight of that. Our Common Core needs to be centered around showing God’s love to every child of every age, no child left behind on that.
Remember, God can do anything.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
My favorite teaching is the teaching of God’s Word. I will be teaching my newest bible study Broken: A Journey of Healing this fall at my church, Little Flock Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, KY.
If you think that this study is for you or for your women’s group, check out my web site with information on Broken and how it can be used. I would love to share this transforming study with you–get on my calendar if I can help in any way. God is doing a great work through this study.