Discipline is an area of contention for every principal. In an instant, tempers can flare, tears can flow, and feelings can be hurt. I want to give you the standard I cling to in order to not lose sight of the big picture.
First, you have to understand that most teachers instinctually will try to handle discipline as they would with their own children. It doesn’t make it wrong necessarily, just inappropriate at times. The reason being that not every student has the personality that their child has.
Unless taught differently, a teacher could find himself in a vicious cycle where he quickly loses the respect and control of the students because he continues to use strategies that aren’t working. This is why the principal’s role is so important, to be that reinforcement and that extra set of eyes on the situation.
Secondly, students expect boundaries. Even though they may not like your rules, they understand that rules exist for a purpose. And they expect these rules to be enforced.
Prevention vs. Punishment
When it comes to discipline, everything comes down to this one question:
Is the purpose of discipline prevention or punishment?
Great teachers want poor behavior to not be repeated. To them, it’s not about the action taken during discipline. The most important piece is whether or not the student learned a lesson.
Poor teachers often feel wronged by the behavior and want vengeance. Whatever Junior did struck a nerve and they took it personally. I’ve known some who seem like their only appeasement would be to see a head to roll. They want that student to leave the office either mad or crying. I’ve got news for you…they came to the office either mad or crying!
If punishment is the focus, then discipline becomes very simple. Do the time on the wall at recess, spend that half-day at in-school detention, take three days off in out-of-school suspension. At times, these are very necessary and will still have to be used. But shouldn’t relationship be part of the equation?
Great teachers understand that discipline begins with a relationship.
Great teachers understand that discipline begins with that relationship. It’s the trust that forms between the student and the person in authority. That trust is what will allow you to be a voice that is heard, not just another adult nagging at them. Trust is that permission the student gives you to speak into his or her life, the right to be heard, the respect necessary to turn discipline from punishment into prevention.
Question: What kind of relationship are you forming with your students? If someone asked each student in your room “Do you know without a doubt that your teacher loves and cares about you?”, what would your student say? I’d love to hear your comments!
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