Meet the Teacher


Relatonships Matter! Part 2 Discipline

This is the second installment of my blog series, Relationships Matter.  Read the first blog post here.  

When trying to build relationships with students, discipline can get in the way.  Behavior programs or clip charts negate any positives you are doing in your classroom.  When you pass through the halls at school and hear "Pull a red ticket" or "You're on yellow now" or “You lost a point on Dojo” you can bet that student forgot every good thing that happened that day.  Hear it enough and it truly affects a child’s self-esteem.  So many times the kids that have trouble are truly not able to control their behavior.  After 23 years of teaching I am convinced that negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse.
no more behavior charts

I know what you are thinking.  “How do you discipline if you don’t use a behavior program?”  or “But I have this one kid

I get it.  Chronic disruptive behavior is a significant challenge!  I’ve had those kids, too.  I have a son at home who was in eight schools from preschool to 8th grade and his behavior is better at school than it is at home. I watched him suffer.  He’s the one who taught me we have to do better.  My son has autism and even he knew the impact of behavior programs, especially those where you can’t improve.   So I knew if he understood, surely our students without a developmental disability did, too.  What good does it do to punish a child who literally hasn’t yet acquired the brain functions required to control his or her behavior? {and why does the entire class need to know?  Even if you are private, clip charts are there for everyone to see.}  How is that helping them? It is sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gainmomentary peace in the classroom.  

So, then what do I do?  Let me walk you through my thinking.

In my class I have guidelines for student behavior. They are:

1.        You may engage in any behavior that does not create a problem for you or anyone else in the class.

2.      If you have a problem, you may solve it however you want as long as it  does not cause a problem for anyone else.

3.       You may engage in any behavior that does not jeopardize the safety or learning of yourself or others. Unkind words and actions will not be tolerated.

That's it.  

If I have a student who cannot follow these guidelines, I work extra hard to help this child.  First, I spend extra time getting to know that child.  Sometimes I have to dig deep because it’s easy to feel as if the child is misbehaving to punish me.  I need to remember that misbehavior is a cry for help.  This really helps me react without anger or haste and staying calm is key! 

discipline in the primary classroom

You may have heard the saying the students that need the most love ask for it in the most unloving ways. When I look at misbehavior as a cry for love and attention, it diffuses the situation for me immediately.   
It's best not to problem solve with a student in the heat of the moment.  I make sure they are safe and let them calm down.  Sometimes that means I need help from a colleague, such as a teammate, the school psychologist or social worker or an itinerant teacher.  That's okay.  Typically I ask them to watch my class while I help the student in distress but sometimes that is just not possible.  

Once the student has calmed down it is time to problem solve.  I try to get to the bottom of what happened, what the student was feeling, and why they were feeling that way.  I teach 6 year olds, so it's not always possible for them to do and sometimes I need to look for patterns in behavior.    Next, we brainstorm alternative behaviors for the circumstance.  We discuss outcomes of the alternative behaviors and then the child will pick one or two to try. I try to target when these behaviors are most likely to happen and remind the student in private to try the alternatives if they feel that way again. This is a process, but it works.  We celebrate victories and discuss and brainstorm again if the disruptive/negative behavior shows up.

discipline in the primary classroom

In case you are wondering,  there are consequences for behavior.  Consequences are not punitive nor public and allow  for the child to experience the results of a poor choice, enabling him or her to make better choices in the future. There are A LOT of discussions and reminders involved in this.

The goal of my discipline is to help and teach students.  There is always the exception where a student needs more help than I can provide in the classroom and I work with a team to ensure the student gets the help, and sometimes placement, that they need. I have found when you show a child you are on their side and you are rooting for them and believe in them, it works wonders. This maintains positive relationships and makes for an emotionally safe place for all students.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.  Please comment and let me know!
discipline in the primary classroom

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