What should a teacher's philosophy be on behavior?

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I simply have to contribute here as I have taught 7th grade through college students, and in my opinion, the most challenging but most fun were 8th graders.  If you think about what behavior you and the students want in a classroom (and yes, I did ask my students), the rules usually boiled down to the usual: 1. be respectful of each other (meaning no bullying or interrupting someone else), 2. be consistent in enforcing the rules (meaning no playing favorites), 3. display the rules agreed upon, and 4. most importantly, demonstrate the rules.  This applied to the 8th grade rolling of the eyes, the huge sighs of discontent, the sarcastic face when assigned a partner, and then of course, the words spoken when caught, "I didn't SAY anything!"  I went through each scenario, asked the class if they understood what the student had said without words which they always did, and then explained that unsaid words were subject to the rules also.  Demonstrating was the key to making the rules work, especially the unsaid words.  Much of the 8th grade troubling behavior was eliminated because no one could claim that they "didn't know." 

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A teacher's control of the classroom is tantamount to effective teaching. Classroom management is often the single biggest obstacle to successful teaching for new teachers.  We all come to teaching because we believe that we can help students learn.  What a shock when we actually get into a classroom only to find that it appears that students don't necessarily want to learn. In an age of instant gratification, the work required in a rigorous learning environment is not always easy to achieve.  It cannot happen without order.  That said, the key factors to order in the classroom are concise behavior expectations, clear consequences and consistency in dealing with infractions of the rules.  It is amazing how quickly even the most recalcitrant student will respond to discipline when he/she recognizes the teacher metes out discipline fairly. Once the class understands that even that "perfect student" will have the same consequences as the "problem student" many of the problems will disappear.  In summary, have concise expectations; pick your behavior battles.  Always make sure that the students understand the consequences of certain behaviors.  And, most importantly, be consistent.  Stick to your behavior plan and consequences every single time.  Or, the students will see that it might be worth their while to act out on the off chance you won't do anything.

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The teacher philosophy on discipline should be reflective of beliefs that the teacher can consistently support and represent.  If the teacher cannot "sell" it to the students, the classroom culture in which achievement and progress is valued and misbehavior is discouraged will be difficult to endorse.  Thinkers like Curwin suggest a very direct and philosophical approach to constructing guidelines for behavior:

  • To use positive rather than negative statements
  • To be definite about proper and prohibited behavior
  • To be brief
  • To spell out consequences

This is one example on how a teacher philosophy on behavior can be constructed.  The most important element in a teacher's philosophy on behavior is that they are advocating a system towards which they can lend their name.  In the issue of behavior, students need to know that their teacher believes in this system.  They will generate greater respect for the discipline system if they recognize that the teacher believes in this and is not simply parroting an external reality.  In the teacher's philosophy on behavior, it is essential for the teacher to be able to embody a belief in their expectations, demonstrating that they will consistently honor that which is good and redirect that which is not. 

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A teacher’s philosophy on behavior should be something that comes from that teacher’s own beliefs.  It should be a philosophy that informs the way in which they react to student behavior and that informs the behaviors that they try to elicit from their students.  Each teacher’s philosophy on behavior must be tied to that teacher’s own personality and attitudes.  At the same time, there are some things that should be a part of every teacher’s philosophy on behavior.

At its root, a teacher’s philosophy on behavior must be focused on ensuring that all students in that teacher’s classroom have a chance to learn in a decent learning environment.  It must be focused on ensuring that students do not act in ways that are hurtful to their peers.  These are things that cannot be negotiable.  Every teacher must believe in these things.

However, there is room for how a teacher wants to run his or her classroom.  Some teachers will be more accepting of an informal setting in which students feel free to speak in class, for example, without raising their hands.  Some teachers will accept students getting up to get a drink without asking permission.  These sorts of details about classroom behavior are much more up to the teacher’s discretion.

Thus, a teacher’s philosophy on behavior must be based on doing what is right for the students, but different teachers may have different views on the details of the behaviors that they expect.

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