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Discipline in the classroom Discipline is an important aspect of classroom management. How should classroom disruptive behavior be handled that helps both the class and the individual student?

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markchambers1966 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I've been a teacher for over twenty years and a deputy Head Teacher in charge of discipline in a high school too. My advice to new teachers is always be seen to be fair, never make a threat you cannot carry out and never back yourself or the student into a corner, always try to leave an exit route if possible. One strategy is to place the onus directly on them, so you are saying "I like you, but not your behaviour...if you persist in doing **** any further then you will force me to (mention the sanction) but if you stop now then we will not mention things further. Please don't make me have to (mention the sanction again). At this point most students will seek to avoid trouble and back down. If you do employ the sanction then you have been seen to be fair and have offered them a way out, they are the ones totally to blame. Do not punish a class for the actions of a couple of individuals, that is unpopular and try to remain calm wherever possible. Don't let them see that they are annoying you as then they have what they wanted. Learn to smile and even laugh when you don't want to, but always apply the firmness of control and show the level you expect.

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Mike Walter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Good question. This is easier to write about than actually do.

Disruptive behavior can push a teacher's patience to the breaking point. It's difficult to react calmly and constructively sometimes. A teacher pretty much needs to expect disruptive behavior, especially in certain classes.

If the teacher's response is going to help both the class and the student, it is critical that the teacher not react with anger. Anger puts everybody, even non-offending students, on the defensive. It can bring teaching and learning to a standstill.

Talking to a student one-on-one is almost always more effective than yelling in front of a group.

Calling parents is also effective in some, but not all, cases.

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Having never been a teacher, I can only speak from the position of student, but aside from college I think the most important aspect of discipline is the students respecting the teacher as an authority figure. I saw many middle-and-high school teachers -- good teachers otherwise -- crumble and vanish under relentless abuse from the students. Myself included; I am not so vain to pretend that I didn't go along with the crowd. Other teachers made it clear that they were in charge, that they had parent-approved authority to punish us academically, and they weren't going to stand for shenanigans. Those teachers got the best results because they forced students to give up ideas of rebellion and focus on the actual schoolwork. Respect comes partially from admiration -- if the student is mature enough to understand it -- and from fear; "Will I actually face consequences, or will the teacher be too afraid of potential prosecution to stop me?"

Other than that, classroom discipline is more of a personal teaching style issue than of a hard-and-fast rule. It mostly depends, I believe, on how the teacher connects with the students, and how interested the students are in the subject (or in just passing the class). In these litigious days, it is harder than ever to enforce discipline.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous posts all make good points to use in keeping good discipline in a classroom.  Teaching eighth graders for the last 15 years of my career can be a bit different.  You need to do all the above ideas of mutual respect, building relationships with both the students and the parents by sometimes calling with positive news, having clear expectations, and making students feel that you are aware of everything going on in your classroom.  I found, however, that I needed to demonstrate some expectations as students didn't always get what I meant by the few written posted rules.  When I wrote to respect others and yourself, I needed to do the 8th grade sneer to remove the possibility of a student saying, "But I didn't say anything!"  Everyone understood the unspoken language, the  physical moving away, the under the breath comments made about others in grade 8.  Once I had demonstrated, all possibilities of innocence were removed.  My policy was that if it happened once, I asked the student if they really wanted to "say" that, giving them an opportunity to save face.  If they did, I removed them, but most  of the time, they said no and once was enough for the entire class. And once did count for the entire class which made my classroom feel safe from the 8th grade bullying and teasing which students tried and were quickly stopped.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous posts concerning mutual respect are excellent suggestions, but I have found that many students (particularly during my 10+ years of teaching rural, mostly low-ability middle schoolers) are not mature enough to accept such an arrangement. Middle schoolers in particular are often unwilling to accept the responsibility of their own actions, choosing to blame others (often the teacher) for their bad behavior. When a student becomes so unruly that order in the classroom suffers, that student needs to be removed, and the parents need to be contacted.

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larrygates eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is important when dealing with classroom disruptions that the student not be placed in a position in which he/she feels threatened. If this happens, the student will reflexively push back and your correction suddenly becomes confrontational. Although the above posts make valid points, even students with whom the teacher has worked hard to establish a good rapport will from time to time become disruptive.

Students who are disruptive are normally distracted and/or bored, or are seeking approval/attention from their classmates. At other times, the student may have come to school with emotional baggage (problems at home, etc.) which he/she does not wish to discuss openly. One should bear this in mind, and not seek to embarrass or humiliate the student in front of his peers. The long term effect of such a correction is probably more harmful than the disruption. One should remain calm and address the student in a polite but authoritative manner. At times a stern glance is sufficient, or a finger on the student's desk (but NEVER on his person) will make the student aware that you are aware.  If necessary, call his name and politely ask for his cooperation. Most disruptions end with this minor intervention. If/when the student persists, remind him of consequences, of which he should already be aware. Communication with parents, preferably by telephone as soon as practicable should be part of your followup at this point. If this does not solve the problem, or the student becomes hostile, then the matter has reached another level, and one should seek intervention by an administrator or other person charged with maintaining discipline when it escalates beyond the point at which a classroom teacher can deal with it.

Although one hopes to solve disruptions diplomatically, one must not forget that one's first obligation is to the class as a whole. If one student is disruptive, he/she interferes with the learning process for the other students in the class. So remain calm, remain polite, but be firm and consistent.


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Alec Cranford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I firmly agree with the previous post. I think building relationships with students is absolutely indispensible to good classroom management. In addition to the axamples mentioned above, sometimes showing respect and building relationships comes down to simple things, like learning students names within the first couple of days, providing positive feedback on something they've done, and taking a personal interest in them (e.g. their interests, hobbies, sports they play, etc.) Beyond that, it is essential to have reasonable, clear expectations and enforce them consistently and professionally from the first day of school until the end of the year. When dealing with disruptions, the simplest solution is usually the best, and I find that walking around a room almost constantly is the best method for averting problems. Students should trust and respect you, but they should also feel that you know everything that's going on in your classroom.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To me, the classroom environment centers around mutual respect.  In my years as a teacher I have been to many required trainings on classroom management, but the simplest thing continues to be my best weapon in preventing and dealing with discipline issues: I treat my students with respect and demand it in return.

I wish students entered my classroom with an innate sense of respect for me (and some do), but the roles of children and adults have changed since I attended school.  When I grew up, the teacher was alway right.  Today, many parents try to befriend their children and their relationships are based more on friendship than respect.  If a student doesn't respect their parents, how can I expect them to enter my classroom and respect me?

I model respect to my students, and show it to them first.  I treat them as wish to be treated as an adult, even though they are students, and I explain it to them when I am doing it.  I look for opportunities to treat them better that they expect me to, and to show them greater respect than they are accustomed.  By laying the foundation of respect initially, I have platform from which to handle discipline problems.

I make my expectations for behavior clear, but when a student gets out of line I never yell or punish a student in front of the class.  In a private conversation with the child my first question isn't to ask them about what they did wrong, my first question is to ask the student if they are ok.  Many times the student isn't frustrated with me or my class, rather some outside problem.  Instead of taking a personal insult I determined the problem, showed that I was concerned, and ask if I could be of help.  I still explain that their behavior was innappropriate and it can't continue, but most students immediately change their actions after this type of exchange. 

If a private conversation ever turns hostile from a student, I continue to remain calm and firm and never argue with a student.  If you argue with a student, they win immediately because you have lowered yourself to a peer rather than a superior.  Of course, talking to parents can be a help, as well as administrators, but in my years of teaching I have only had to send a handful of students to the principal for assistance.  I firmly believe that if you treat students as adults and respectfully set expectations that most classrooms will have a positive environment.

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symbolonvambrace | Student

As a student, I belive, the same as Lentzik, that it all evolves around mutual respect.

each student should feel a mutual respect from their teacher, than themselves will submit to it. we students usually rebel and display misbehaviour, mainly through the feeling of disrespect we receive from our peers and teachers, or the unpleasant expression and action from one. we like to be treated as equals, and we are often felt of being treated inferior and bothersome, thus leading to our rebellion to class lessons. with respect, we are able to understand each other, therefore, happy-happy.

NEVER threaten or give detentions. although it may sound quite useful and effective, I assure you, as a student hearing gossips everywhere, it does nothing! instead, the students become more agitated, more aggravated, more angry. To prove that you have not 'broken' them, they will show more displays of hate and bad behaviour.

to ensure nothing such as mentioned happens even in the first place, make sure to make mutual respect between all students, treat everyone equally, and never, NEVER create a 'teacher's pet'. Do not favor only one student, for the others may feel left out and lose respect for you.

this is not a professional advice, just something from a fellow student who believes in what is right. (And it's my first time using enotes)


astrosonuthird | Student

I agree with #10.


parker6307 | Student

As a student, I find that being friendly with the class makes the teacher and by extention the lesson more interesting. However what my friends and I find annoying is when a teacher is more friendly with one student than the rest of the class. Mainly because when anyone misbehaves they are disciplined but when said child who is friendly with the teacher misbehaves it is overlooked. Overall, if youre friendly with a class, great! But make sure to enforce discipline evenly between the behaved students and the misbehaved students.