The English Teacher

Teacher Caused Discipline Problems

Teacher caused discipline problems arise from a number of sources, lack of preparation, inadequate training in discipline techniques, and attitude toward students. [Please be aware that this article is not suggesting that all discipline problems are teacher caused.]

One day when I was sitting in an Educational Philosophy class, another prospective teacher commented to a friend about her student teaching saying, "how I hate these kids!" I wondered if she didn't change her feelings or discontinue her plans to teach, about how many students she would ruin in her teaching career. Students can sense the teacher's attitudes and feelings toward them. A teacher may be able to fool an administrator or a parent, but students can feel whether someone cares. The caring can be found in the desire to teach and in the caring about the individual. Once I attended a class taught by Michael Grinder and he said that traditionally high school teachers teach subjects such as English, math, etc. but that grade school teachers taught students. There is a truth in that statement for many teachers. Students respond much better to teachers who teach students the subject matter rather than teach the subject matter.

The best discipline tool is knowing your subject and your topic. The next best tool is caring to convey that knowledge to the students. Also have fun learning and telling your classes about what you learned, even in areas not related to your classes. [This sharing does not mean to go on and on about a subject; it means to share new things learned as they are learned. It means to show you have fun learning.]

Be honest with your students. They can see through masks' and screens.' Don't be intimate though.

Don't expect to know all things. Don't project the impression that you consider that you 'know all things.' Graciously and gently give your students some room for error and they will do the same for you.

Have some right brain units, but beware of 'uncorking' your class. Right brain activities are a potential source of teacher caused discipline problems. Don't blame them for the results of your starting a right brain activity.... which causes loudness, less inhibitions, and sharing of projects with less restraint. Poetry and drawing are some of the right brain activities that cause these reactions. Plan a transition out of a right brain activity or plan it toward the end of the period so that if necessary, you can be 'saved by the bell.'

Be aware of what it means when students are auditory, visual, or kinesthetic.

Don't be manipulated into wanting them to like you. Aim for respect; then they will like you. Don't be a buddy. They have contempt for teachers they can push around, and they have hate for arbitrary, willful, and otherwise unfair teachers. Be fair.

Don't punish the entire class unless the entire class is at fault. Note: if the teacher will analyze the problem there is almost no situation where the entire class is at fault. See the section 'Philosophy Underlying Discipline' for further discussion of this topic.

Finally, don't attempt to control a class with your physical strength. For instance a student related an incident when another teacher was keeping the entire class after the bell for a discipline reason. In order to ensure that the students didn't leave before permission was given, the teacher stood in the doorway of the classroom to keep the students from leaving. Some of the students ended up pushing past the teacher and leaving.

This shoving action occurred because the discipline force was lowered to the physical plane. A teacher is more effective keeping discipline on a societal, mental, ethical, and emotional plane.

Return to: Strategies for Classroom Discipline