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Chapter 3 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Handle Discipline in the Elementary Classroom

Maintaining classroom discipline is essential to a healthy school environment. Behavioral problems must be dealt with quickly, fairly, and constructively. Hold children accountable for their actions. Behavioral problems will be greatly reduced if responsibility for personal behavior is placed upon the childrens shoulders. Positive measures circumvent problems by conveying to the child that his teacher has faith in him as a person. Begin now to move from supervising and policing children to allowing them to accept responsibility for their behavior and any actions resulting from their misbehavior. Start by having less direct teacher supervision in such places as the cafeteria during lunch, in the halls, or in the classroom during discussions. When it becomes evident that students are accepting responsibility for their actions or their behavior, you need to praise and congratulate them. When one student fails to accept responsibility, avoid criticizing the entire group. Deal with the individual separately, away from the group setting. When disciplining one or a few students because of misconduct, remember that the other class members are doing great and continue to praise them heartily. Children can never receive too much praise! Conduct the affairs of the classroom so that children feel lucky and privileged to come to school each day. Be enthusiastic when teaching. Organize each days learning activities so they will be completed by the children in an interesting manner. Provide opportunities for children and teacher to cooperate in the selection of various learning adventures that are to take place in the classroom. Cooperating with the children will be a motivating force that will energize the entire class. If children are motivated by challenging schoolwork, they will not fake illness in order to stay home. Instead, they will realize such a stunt hurts only them. For those students who are continually absent from school, the teacher may be compelled to put on a counselors hat. Inform the child that he places himself in 8

jeopardy by not attending school regularly. Though some absences are unavoidable, too often they are the result of poor emotional outlook toward school. A child must believe that he/she belongs. A sense of belonging to a group of children and to a teacher gives the child the security he needs. Take the necessary steps to develop group, as well as individual pride. Building group and individual student pride is important in strengthening positive learning environments in elementary classrooms. Definite disciplinary policies must be established in classrooms and should spring from the teacher and children jointly. Allow the children to voice their thoughts about policy enforcement and consider these opinions when formulating policies. Disciplinary policies must meet the teachers professional needs and obligations, as well as the childrens personal needs. Children must clearly understand that punishment is administered for specific reasons. Explain these reasons to the child before punishment is administered, making certain the child understands that the behavior is being addressed not the character of the child. Determine the severity of the punishment by the degree of misbehavior, and never discipline a child when angry. This protects the child as well as the teacher. It is wise to contact the principal when faced with the temptation of punishing a child in an unusual manner. Many disciplinary problems can be addressed in weekly class discussions on character development. Social skills are presently neglected in the classroom. Each week, various incidents must be discussed which testify to the important roles that character development and social skills play in adjustment phases. Along with the presentation of academic subjects, general personal conduct must be discussed with children. The newspaper is an excellent tool for deterring disciplinary problems. Have the class read articles about the good things people do, then have them read about the horrible things people do. Point out the reward for good behavior and the consequences of bad behavior. Soon, students will realize for themselves that people, more times than not, cause their own problems. 9

Children who are experiencing severe problems in school must be reassured of their teachers support. Read the accumulative records of a child to learn as much as possible about the childs home setting. Being interested in the welfare of the child is the first step in wanting to help a child who is having difficulty in school. Some teachers visit the homes of people who are sick. Before this is done, the teacher may want to consult with the principal to make sure this is advisable. Others show their interest by attending an activity the child is participating in, whether it be in school or in the community. Conference with these children and contact other teachers so problem situations can be corrected immediately. Problems can mushroom out of control if not handled expeditiously. It is easier to prevent a problem than to correct one. Most behavioral problems can be prevented by striving to resolve them quickly, and many problems would never have become realities had the appropriate steps been taken to prevent them. The principal must be informed if the problems continue. The principal or counselor can offer helpful suggestions in dealing with problems before they become unmanageable. In such cases, soliciting parental cooperation or cooperation from the caretaker may be necessary. Getting the parents/guardians involved usually assures that the child will be encouraged to improve his behavior at school as well as at home. Getting children to accept responsibility in the elementary school is a continual uphill battle for every teacher. When children have problems, they must be encouraged to establish goals they can achieve for their own individual safety, development, and improvement. A growing problem in the school continues to be classroom discipline and management. Becoming competent in managing the classroom comes with time and experience. By ensuring that teachers have the appropriate information on preventative and corrective behavior management strategies, this will help to minimize classroom discipline problems. If professional development is warranted, the principal may develop a professional development plan to assist the teacher in this area. If corporal punishment is to be administered, it must be done as a last resort. Teachers will deal better with the student problems if they realize that corporal 10

punishment is useless, a waste of time, and solves few problems. Corporal punishment must never be administered on or about the childs head or face. When corporal punishment is administered, it is the teachers prime responsibility to ensure that a certified school system employee is present to witness the punishment. Children must not be spanked unless written consent is given by the childs parents. Do not threaten children. Firmness is a must with children at first, but later, the teacher may ease the rules. Some teachers create their own problems if they begin in a relaxed manner and then expect to bear down on the children when trouble develops. Because actions speak loudly to children, teachers must be good examples in and out of the classroom. They must display characteristics of honesty, integrity, courtesy, fairness, ethics, and courage. The mature teacher understands the child but also realizes that control must be maintained in the classroom in order for learning to take place. Practices such as rules being posted throughout the classroom, non-verbal communication cues, redirecting behaviors, avoiding power struggles could assist in alleviating anti-social behaviors. If strategies used by the teacher are not proving to be beneficial, a behavior plan may be developed for the student. This is a contract between the student and the teacher with specific behaviors identified, positive consequences noted, and consequences of failing to follow through on the agreement. A child must go through certain procedures when he is tardy, and the tardiness is excused. On the other hand, if he skips school, it is the principals responsibility and duty to administer the disciplinary action. If the child leaves school early or the classroom unexpectedly, the teacher and principal must both agree on measures to be taken in order to solve the problem. The parents or guardian of the child must be informed by the teacher or principal. A note sent home to the parents or guardian, mailed, carried by the child or emailed is effective as long as it is signed by a parent and returned to the school. The returned, signed note should be kept in the students personal files in the schools office until the matter is corrected. A personal conference with the childrens parents/guardians is usually effective in solving difficulties. Teachers must realize that some classroom problems require special attention and they must not hesitate to request assistance if the demands of the situation warrant 11

it. Counselors can help tremendously. The school psychologist, principal, educational specialists, and nurse are employed to help, and their services must be requested. Discipline problems will always be present in the classroom. When problems arise, maintain poise, always considering the child first. Trust the students sense of fair play, and his desire to do right. In most cases, children want to do the right thing. Treat each disciplinary incident as an individual problem and make a sincere effort to understand the childs difficulty. Many times, in the eyes of a child, his teacher is the only adult who cares. A Thought in Words The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. Diogenes