Discipline, Be Proactive!

As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure? Boy, if we all lived by that belief, I bet a lot of the life frustrations we face would go away! For example, if we hadn’t eaten fast food in the last four days, our scale wouldn’t show a new, astronomical number! If we weren’t driving 55 mph in a 35 mile zone, we wouldn’t shell out $100 on a ticket! If we didn’t indulge in an unnecessary shopping spree, our bank account wouldn’t be empty! The list could be continued as desired.

The same idea can be used when it comes to discipline! If we know our students well, we know what makes them angry, when they are most absent, when they are most frustrated, who they bump into, what their behavior is like when they are ready to blow, etc. When we knowing these things about our students, we must use that knowledge to prevent discipline problems from occurring, or at least from occurring as often.

When our former principal came to our school, we had just finished a year of sending 850 disciplinary actions to the office! We were an elementary school with around 300 students from grades K – 6.

Unfortunately we had gotten to the point that if a student was ‘misbehaving’ we wrote it up and sent it to the office for the Headmaster to look into!

Wow… lucky you! These students were allowed to sit in the office with an audience (whoever entered or left the office) and probably three or four other students who were in trouble and were also waiting for the principal. What a party! It was really, frankly… ridiculous. I don’t know how else to describe it, nor do I want to believe that I was part of this practice.

When our new headmistress came, the first thing she asked us was what we wanted to change about our school. We loudly said discipline. However, we felt that we wanted disciplinary action to be better handled in the office rather than us making changes to prevent disciplinary action.

Our Headmistress spoke to us about how limited she was when the students came into the office in terms of their options. She could suspend them. She could evict them. Then our students could sit at home all day, watching cartoons and playing video games. These two options clearly weren’t the answer as this isn’t the best for students.

Then the discussion arose about what we could do differently in class. Being proactive was one of the first things we talked about. We had our students for two years and usually got to know them very well. So we had to think about how we could use our relationships with the students to focus on that impede prevent disciplinary issues from occurring, rather than just thinking about responding to the discipline.

What a difference! For example, we started community meetings where students talked about behaviors they didn’t like. We started mini tribe meetings where small groups of students helped solve problems among other students. We introduced time out where students would spend some time in another classroom to calm down to prevent a blow, or to calm down after a blow (as opposed to sitting in the office). Students who typically had anger issues chose a special teacher to go to when they felt upset. When this happened, the student gave his class teacher a note, letting her know that he needed to go to his partner teacher to calm down. We all agreed that if a student came to us (as a special teacher) we would let him stay in our room until we had a chance to speak to him.

In fact, in our proactive journey, there was one instance where a particular student was having so much trouble getting along with their classmates that our principal just said, “Okay, pick the room where you can behave best! “

In fact, he went to the other three classrooms, looked at the kids in the room, pointed to a specific room, and said, “This one.” He chose the room where he felt he could get along best with other students. And guess what? He was right.

For the same student, the homeroom teacher, principal, and PE teacher even worked to provide him with a personal space in the classroom that he could go to when needed. It was a round table covered with a large tablecloth that reached to the floor and even had a lamp. He went under the table when he needed that personal space or was feeling extremely frustrated. He called this place his post-treatment. It worked like a charm!

If we stop and think about what safety nets, practices, procedures, post-treatments, etc. that we can put in place to help students avoid discipline problems can really make such a big difference. Our 850 disciplinary referrals went down to MAYBE 10… and it hasn’t increased since!

Being proactive is one way to alleviate some of the discipline issues in your room, bringing a little more peace to both you and your students! It helps avoid punishments that don’t help students grow in their behavior as well as punishments that actually encourage misbehavior!

Thanks to Kim Amburgey | #Discipline #Proactive

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