There are dozens of ways to create order in chaos (and if you’ve taught middle school, you know that chaos can abound if not properly squashed), but there are a few time-honored and newer ways to get a class on topic, and on it’s way to learning and mastering concepts. A class cannot function without discipline; learning ceases, therefore, it is essential to have discipline before teaching.
But, if you’ll indulge me for a minute…let me take you back to my first year of teaching and the major discipline issues I dealt with….ouch! This is going to hurt.
My first year was so exciting, but so stressful at the same time–I nearly left the profession after the first 6 months (I was hired in December, thrown into a class of struggling sophomores with 3rd grade reading levels, and left to figure out what to do about it). It was not the planning that nearly cost me my passion–it was the lack of discipline. I didn’t know what to do when a student misbehaved, but they knew just what to do when I faltered…they pounced! I mean it…I think they could smell my fear and it was on. The power struggle ensued and I was left to my own devices as to how to solve even the most minor of offenses. So, what sort of (PUNISHMENT) did I dole out? Hmmmm…
- Writing hundreds of sentences
- Lunch detention
- After school detention
- Saturday school
- Cleaning my classroom
- Extra worksheets/homework
- Finally, the office
And how did that work out for me? As you can guess; awfully!
In the last few years, however, I have learned a few tricks and was lucky enough to work in a district that used a discipline method based on grace…BIST. It is from this Kansas City, MO based program that I found the guidance I needed to help my students behave in class, and help myself to a less stressful life. After studying many discipline programs with my school team, I realized that many are very, very similar. BIST (they are in no way sponsoring me) has books full of methodology, but for the sake of time and space, I have gleaned the most effective and most useful.
~First and foremost: Have a plan for misbehavior before you even start. And practice, practice, practice all the following procedures until students know exactly what you expect. It is essential to know what to do before it happens. You can count on kids forgetting supplies in their locker, talking when you are talking, being distracted in class, and even the occasional talking back. You have to know what to do in these situations before the students even walk into your classroom. For all of the above scenarios, proximity, a look, or another subtle cue will usually get the offending student back on track.
The Top Three Ways to Create Order in Any Classroom
- Redirect a student ONE time…no more. This is key to have compliance and leads to a smooth running class. If a student is off task in any way, direct their attention to the misbehavior and ask for compliance. It sounds like this: “Stacy, this is your redirection.” or “I see you are talking to Cameron, can you quit talking even if you don’t want to?” This scripted response–I see, Can you, Even though–is an excellent reminder to the student that she is being redirected.**
- If a student cannot comply after the first request they must be removed from the situation. This is where you must have pre-planned your actions. I have a safe seat in my room–a desk next to mine, away from the class and facing the wall–that I utilize to remove the student from the situation. To have the students go to the safe seat, I always say, “You were not able to follow my instructions so you will have to go to the safe seat until we can solve your problem.”
- The student must apologize for their behavior. The was the hardest for me–if a student acted remorseful and seemed okay, I would automatically place them back in the class. I didn’t give them the time to reflect on his behavior, therefore, I never really let them get to a point of change. And change is ultimately what I want.
The most important part of this post is that this is only part one…what the student must do to behave in class. Here is part II.