A new take on Discipline

This summer I took a class from a lady named Leigh VandenAkker. She was really one of the best teachers I have ever had. I had a really hard time though because Leigh disciplines very differently than I do. Well, she used to. I used to think that I must rule with an iron fist, make students fear me, and "not smile before Christmas". Today drove the point home that what I was doing things very wrong.

Yesterday in class, one student was presenting what she had written, and another student (we'll call her Michelle) in class turned to the girl who was sitting behind her (the same girl she had been talking to all day!) and rolled her eyes, and mouthed "Really?" while the other girl was in the middle of talking. I stopped the girl presenting, and told Michelle that what she was doing was inappropriate. Then she argued with me, and I said that she needed to say sorry. Michelle reluctantly agreed, but maintained that she did not roll her eyes. It was not a good experience. After class, I told her that what she was doing signals to the person in the front of the room that Michelle does not like her. Michelle claimed that she does like the presenter and that she doesn't want to be rude. It ended better than I thought. This was a strategy I learned from Leigh. Don't argue, wait until after class to discuss it further, explain that the behavior puts people on different levels and then find a way to make sure that the person leaves knowing that you love them, but don't like the behavior, and then make sure that they understand that.

Today, Michelle was talking to this same girl again during a team meeting in our pod before she was in my class. The teacher she has before me jumped on her and embarrassed her in front of all the other students. I had her next and we went to the auditorium for a small presentation. I sat behind Michelle and her friend to make sure they didn't talk, and then when the assembly was over, I made my move. Our school has RATTLE cards. There are rules associated with each of those letters. The cards are given to students who are caught doing something good associated with those positively worded rules. The students can collect them, save them, then buy things in the student store with them, and then there are drawings for the whole school for cool things like digital cameras, gift certificates, and more. Anyway, the students want these. So, when the assembly was over, I leaned up and whispered to the girls, while handing them two rattle cards each, "Thank you so much for showing that you are mature and can sit through this presentation without talking to each other. I was going to move you so you didn't sit by each other, but I am glad that I decided to give you another chance. Thank you again for showing your wonderful sense of character." (The E stands for Exhibits Character.) The girls smiled and said thanks and were visibly touched that I did that. The next area we went to they didn't talk again, so I gave them each another RATTLE card, and for the rest of the day, they did not talk when they should not have.

This new style of discipline is much better because I am accenting their positive behaviors and helping them learn how to behave correctly. I don't think that yelling at them as I did in the past was as effective as quickly. Last year, they were always trying to save face, and I was backing them into a corner. I am very pleased so far.

Back to School

My new school is very different from my last school. They are very big on Professional Learning Communities here, as opposed to my old school where I rarely even talked to any of my other teachers. One thing that is especially exciting is that there are a lot of school-wide policies. Most people probably would not think that is cool, but I do. I like that a lot of things are decided for me by the administration, but they are mostly things that I agree with. Their late policy is a little lenient for me, but that is okay. What really makes is great is that the students can't come and complain that a certain teacher allows or does not allow certain things. For instance, no iPods, mp3 players, portable gaming systems, or other types of electronic devices are allowed at school at all. The only exception is cell phones which may be used during passing periods and lunch, but not during class. This is great because if those electronic devices are seen at all, they are taken away and not given back until parents come to get them. I like these new rules so far.

The other great thing is that two of my goals that I talked about recently will be very easy to do because of some other school policies. Planning will be much easier because we are required to do curriculum mapping for the last three quarters. Also, I am on a team and my department is very friendly. The relationships are already better. I don't know if I will continue going to the faculty room each day for lunch because it is very easy to fall into whining about students. I am very excited about my new school and all that goes on.