The words "discipline" and "rules" have a harsh and punitive connotation to some students. But far beyond a "do what I say because I am in charge" attitude, positive discipline techniques along with effective classroom rules create an environment of engaged learning. Positive discipline brings order to a classroom with the philosophy that when the connection between student and teacher is respectful and encouraging, students can discover their true capability while gaining lifelong social skills, such as concern for others, cooperation and problem solving.
Build a Behavior-Influencing Rapport
Presenting yourself as friendly, welcoming, respectful and genuinely interested in your students is the best way to set the stage for positive discipline. When students trust you to enforce your rules fairly, protect them from aggressive behavior, and treat them with respect, it will be easier to keep the problem behaviors in control. With kids on your side, they will keep themselves and each other in line, allowing you to spend less time disciplining. An enthusiastic approach to teaching and the subject area is critical. Students can tell when a teacher sees her job as a chore. Use humor and allow students to express themselves. Getting to know their individual personalities and sensitivities goes a long way in building a behavior-influencing rapport.
Create a Learning Climate
Teachers can take clear steps in order to promote effective and positive classroom management. Students actively engaged in meaningful learning experiences are less likely to make trouble. Problems erupt during "down time." Spending a maximum of 15 minutes on lecture will keep students interested and actively learning. Keep things moving with two or three different activities that engage the kids’ interest. Set high standards and expectations for yourself and your students and exercise patience, compassion and forgiveness.
Enforce Fair Classroom Rules
Setting, following and enforcing classroom rules can be challenging. Making a short list of rules you are willing to reinforce is important. Use four or five rules that can cover all eventualities, so you don’t lose trust by punishing a student for something that does not fall under one of the rules. “Treat our classroom materials with respect” can cover putting gum under the desk, writing on a chair or throwing a book across the room. Include the caveat that you will enforce any rules in the student handbook or discipline policy. Make sure the rules are clear, so everyone, including you, can be certain if a rule has been broken.
Control Without Confrontation
No one responds positively when publicly called out in front of peers. Start by greeting every student as he enters the classroom to make a personal connection and to discreetly handle minor problems like gum chewing and dress code violations before they escalate into public confrontations that waste precious instructional time and damage personal relations. Continue subtle but effective tools to maintain control without confrontation. When trouble starts to brew, start by establishing eye contact, sending silent signals and using proximity to draw in students who are beginning to drift. If your class becomes restless, switch up the activity, redirect their attention or use humor to snap them into a productive and positive direction.
With degrees in biology and education, Jennifer VanBuren now utilizes her research and instructional skills as a writer. She has served as educational columnist for "Austin Family Magazine" for four years and also reports on area businesses for "Faces and Places" magazine.