In his seminar on classroom management, behavioral researcher and professor, Glenn Latham tells the story of a teacher who had been particularly abusive to her students. Not merely was she heavy handed in her classroom, her discipline was often indiscriminate and patently unfair. To express that the students didn’t like or respect her would be an exaggeration, as was evident one weekend when they burned her classroom to the ground.
That said, we would be wise not to come to the conclusion that discipline shouldn’t play a significant role in student behavior at school. What’s essential is they be treated with respect, even though they are not doing what they know they should and that discipline, when it’s necessary is applied appropriately. Tragic as it might be, this is simply not always the case in today’s schools.
As a teacher, there is nothing more exciting than entering a well-organized and disciplined classroom and few things less attractive than one that will not possess those qualities, but creating this kind of environment requires great planning and discipline on the the main teacher and administrators. Harry Wong makes this clear in his book, The First Days of School, as he tells us that success in the classroom is generally won or lost in the very first few minutes, maybe even the very first couple of seconds, of the institution year nonduality online. Good teachers, he tells us, spend a lot of time preparing for the fist couple of days of school, and then spend the very first fourteen days developing and rehearsing procedures that will create the classroom environment to last through the year.
In his book, Teach Just like a Champion, Doug Lemov tells of a teacher who spends the very first hour of the very first day of school teaching students to pass out papers. “We did that in 33 seconds,” he tells them, “let’s see when we can’t obtain it under thirty seconds this time.” Lemov continues on to indicate that such rehearsals are not a waste of time and estimates that this teacher saves a long time within the span of the entire year with this procedure in place.
However, this is simply not just about acquiring proficiency, it’s about creating a warm nurturing environment where students can learn and thrive. Systems and procedures have to be in place and well practiced in order that students know what is required of them in addition to what the expected outcomes will soon be for their behavior. The web effect is just a huge lowering of stress levels for the students and the teachers, and with less stress, teachers are free to activate and instruct at a high level.
So just how do we prevent vandalism and teach kids respect? We do it by first demonstrating ourselves the behaviors we should instill within our students, by treating them with respect even when we don’t think they deserve it, and by putting systems into place that will ensure growth. Kids in that type of environment are highly unlikely to feel the need to destroy property and, maybe even most importantly, are more likely to make a significant contribution to the planet in the future.