Discipline in the ClassroomExpand
Eight out of ten TESOL teachers who do not return after their first year of teaching drop out because they are unable to control their problem in the classroom. According to the researches, that have done recently, discipline ranked as the number one problem in the schools.
What is discipline?
According to the Webster’s dictionary discipline is the “training that corrects, molds, or perfect the mental faculties or moral character.”
How can a teacher maintain discipline in a classroom?
There will be many ideas to maintain discipline in the classroom.
- Being more strict
- Punishing the misbehaving students
- Developing more interested lessons
For sure those suggestions will be helpful, but first of all, teacher should know the main reasons for students’ misbehavior.
The students have not learned the behaviors that are expected of them
Good discipline in classroom begins from students’ understanding of the behavior expected of them. A carefully planned system of rules makes it easier for a teacher to communicate his /her expectations to students.
And the teacher should understand that “Rules and regulations should be made for the students, not students for the regulations”
Also they should be the behaviors the teacher wants instead of the things students cannot do.
Instead of “No fighting” use “please show respect to each other through your words and actions”
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”
But still a teacher cannot assume that students will maintain discipline in the classroom just because he/she once discussed what was expected of them
The teacher has to monitor students behavior
To be an effective monitor of classroom behavior the teacher should know what to look for,
There are two main categories of behavior to monitor
- Students involvement in learning activities
- Students compliance with classroom rules and procedures
Monitoring students’ involvement in learning activities will include attention during presentations and discussions and progress in seatwork and other assignments.
During presentations teacher can sit or stand somewhere he/she can see the faces of all the students.
When the students are working on assignments, teacher can circulate around the room periodically to check on students’ progress.
Teacher can collect assignments regularly and look them over even when students do the checking in class. Teacher can keep the grade book current so that he/she will be able to detect students who are doing poor work.
Monitoring Students compliance with classroom rules and procedures will be easier if the teacher has a clear set of expectations for students’ behavior and have communicated these to the class.
The teacher can watch students as they come into class and look for possible signs of problems before class even begin.
Also the teacher can have a posted discipline plan that would follow consistently, depending on the severity of the offence, this should allow students a warning or two before punishment begins. It should be easy to follow and should cause minimum of disruption in the class.
Rewards to encourage good behavior
Rewards can help building a positive climate in the class by directing attention toward appropriate behavior and away from inappropriate behavior. When students are rewarded rather than punished, they are more likely to respond positively to the teacher.
The rewards should target the behavior you would like to encourage. Rewards too easily earned or too difficult to achieve lose their motivational effect.
Some awards also can be given to some means of giving attention to the students
Discipline in the classroom starts with Self discipline
There is a saying that goes “values are caught, not taught.” Doesn’t matter how many effective rules that a teacher has in the class or how hard he/she monitored students behavior, if the teacher doesn’t set a good example for students through her/his own behavior.
The “do as I say, not as I do” teachers send mixed messages that confuse students and invite misbehavior.
Discipline in the ClassroomExpand
A concern related to student behavior and classroom discipline is the ‘Level of Law’ that is set in place by the teacher for the class. A level of law represents the working ethical and behavior system in the classroom setting. What level of behavior is permitted in the class? Can students shout, push, criticize other students and act not in accordance with other rules set forth by the school?
As teachers are establishing their ‘level of law’ at the beginning of the school year, they may need to explain on the first day of class, that these rules are not personally directed towards any one particular student, group of students but rather all the students in the class. The teacher may also point out that that the purpose of class rules is to allow for a comfortable learning environment for all students and as well as the teacher.
Some teachers feel apprehensive setting a certain ‘rule’ system in the class, but in reality there must be some level set or the teacher can not teach nor can the students learn in a comfortable environment. Some new or inexperienced teachers don’t discipline or have a very low ‘level of law’ in their classrooms because of fear. Others don’t discipline because they are trying to ‘work with’ the problem students. One of the difficulties that inexperienced teachers face is trying to establish a ‘comfort’ level. But, what is a ‘comfort’ level if you have no experience? It can be a daunting experience for new teachers but in due course it just comes with experience. Some teacher training institutions inadequately prepare them to deal with discipline issues in their classroom. Therefore, once teachers decide that discipline is essential, most have to rely on techniques from which they saw used when they themselves were students in school.
Inexperienced teachers sometimes think that by beginning their lesson, the class will settle down and that the children will see that things are underway and now it’s time to get to work. Sometimes this will work but this also sends a greater message that the children will ‘compete’ with you and you don’t mind them talking while you talk.
The ‘focusing ‘ technique works very effective in these sort of situations, where the students and teacher are trying to compete for talk time. A technique, that demands their total attention before class is to begin. It means that you wait until all students have settled down by standing in front of the class and ‘focusing’ on them without muttering a word and after a few seconds the lesson is started in a much more quieter voice than normal.
A softer spoken teacher often has a calmer quieter classroom because the students sit still in order to hear what the teacher is actually saying.
All of these situations have to be adjusted to the individual school setting. Some schools may have a very laidback conduct so more teachers have to do more work enforcing behavior levels in their classrooms. At the other extreme, some schools may be so strict that a teacher may not feel comfortable enforcing certain mandatory rules.
It’s safe to say that some schools may not be a ‘behavioral fit’ for particular teachers and the teachers would surely benefit by teaching in another school where they would be able to implement the own comfort level.
Discipline in the ClassroomExpand
This paper will discuss several of the techniques that I’ve come across and used in the past 12 years of teaching in the context of my current situation, an elementary and middle school public teacher in South Korea. The methods are those that I’ve learned from and adapted from other teachers, or just picked up from various sources. I have been teaching in the public school system in Japan and Korea for about 7 years.
The official line is that all classroom discipline is to be handled by your Korean/Japanese teacher if you are working with the EPIK or JET programs. In reality, that’s a joke, even if your co teacher stays in the room when you’re teaching, so it won’t be discussed. These suggestions are things that the foreign instructor can use if they have nobody to rely on, which will be 99% of the time.
One of the major cause of discipline issues are that children are very aware of power structures. They know very well that you as the foreign teacher are not a “regular” teacher and do not have the authority over them that a Korean teacher would have. And they are completely right, you don’t. Just like we gave substitute teachers a hard time when we were kids, your Korean students will give you a bad time if you let them.
The best that you can hope is making them aware that you can send them to be disciplined by a “real” teacher. If you are lucky, you will have the authority to pull a kid out and send them to their home room teacher, but this privilege depends on the school you are in and can’t be relied on. I’m in a good school right now where the other teachers back me up, but my previous school certainly wasn’t.
The fundamental things that every instructor should do as the year starts is make a seating chart so that you have the names of the students readily available. As you become aware of the trouble spots, you can later rearrange the seats so that disruptive students are not placed near each other. I find that a boy/girl/boy/girl arrangement is fairly effective. Especially disruptive students should be placed near the front.
The desks should be clear of all textbooks, pencil cases etc. The desks should be clear. The students shouldn’t have any pens or other objects in their hands, especially those paper cutters. Students should only have texts, pencils etc when they are needed for the immediate tasks, otherwise there are just a distraction.
At the start of the year, you can set rules. The kids will forget them in a matter of seconds, but you can try. A simple concept like “don’t hit each other” will be ignored. You can try to draconially reinforce those rules whenever a student does hit someone, but in my experience it’s still not going to work. But I’m sure it works for some teachers, so good luck.
Of course, the language tasks should be simple and easy, which will have the students focus on the activity and minimize problems. The instructor should never, ever raise their voices, shout or appear visibly angry. You’re not being paid anywhere near enough to give yourself an ulcer. If you’re upset, it’s time to grab a Korean teacher and say “Enjoy your class”. You’ll probably get backlash from this, but if anybody has a better suggestion….
Many teachers have told me that positive reinforcement works for them. Dividing the class into teams and giving points for good behavior and a prize at the end. Personally, I find it objectionable to reward students simply for not doing things they would never dare do in anybody else’s class. In practice, I give out candy quite a bit. It doesn’t help much with curbing the disruptive behavior, but it does get the students more interested in the activity you are doing. It’s amazing how much English the kid will remember when there’s chocolate to be had.
When it comes to punishment, always remember the objective is not to punish the student but to stop him from disrupting the rest of the class. The most common thing is a three strike rule. First strike the kid goes to the back of the room for a certain length of time. This is not usually effective at all, but it’s just intended as a warning.
Strike two the kid gets sent out of the room, if your school allows you to do that (under Japanese and Korean law every child has the right to an equal education and so can’t be sent from the room. Of course under the law the school can’t have classes taught by people who aren’t officially teachers, but….god, don’t get me started.)
If the school does allow you to do this, it can be effective because the kids know a “real” teacher might see them and then they’ll get punished.
Strike 3 is the kid gets directly handed to the vice principal or the school coach. This’ll terrify them, it’s important to ignore any tears that or the kids sudden understanding of how to say “I’m sorry” over and over. If you back down, you’ll only have more problems later. Always make sure the kid has had at least two warnings first in case the parents complain.
So to summarize, set your class up in a seating plan that sets troublesome students away from each other. Do your best to be a good teacher and make the lesson interesting and fun to maximize interest. Don’t try to get every student to learn, but instead try to stop those who don’t want to learn from distracting the kids who do.
If you do have a good co teacher and an administration that backs you up, you’ve got a gift from God. Treat him or her as such.
Use positive reinforcement, and treat them fairly, but firmly, and with kindness. In 12 years I’ve only seen a few who have acted out of maliciousness (which is more than I can say about the adults) so always remember they are just kids and don’t usually mean any harm.