Monday, October 01, 2007

Discipline part II

Thanks, Ms. Frizzle (or Ms. V) for the encouragement!

Last week was exhausting -- I didn't feel good about any of my classes. I felt like I had been teaching my students from one end of a long tunnel and none of it had reached them on the other side. It took me a while to figure out that part of the problem was classroom management. Even though they weren't being blatantly disruptive, the students weren't really paying attention.

So last night I started reading this book my mom gave me, Positive Classroom Discipline. The first couple of chapters are basically a Klutz Guide to classroom management. It goes through, step by step, how to use body language to communicate to students that you "mean business." There are detailed diagrams of teachers in 80s clothing and various serious faces and poses.

I was so relieved to learn that what I'd heard in grad school -- that if your curriculum is good enough, you won't have discipline problems -- is a myth. And it was really illuminating to see how my body language (smiling, averting my eyes, rushing around, etc) has been working against me.

So today I tried an experiment. I was at the door when the kids came into class giving them immediate instructions. I had them rearrange the tables and gave them new seating assignments. I stopped class whenever someone was not paying attention and practiced my serious face. It was EXHAUSTING. But the students in my classes were much more engaged.

They definitely chafed a bit at the new level of structure. We'll see how they react to day 2 of the experiment.


Tina said...

Discipline is so important for teachers to take seriously in their classrooms. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Okay guys, all eyeballs on me! This is good information." Every time, those students who may be wandering off a little have their attention focused back on the lesson. I sometimes have to say, "I'm still waiting for all the eyeballs." They know I won't let up until everyone is paying attention. Consistency is key!

Without strong classroom discipline, you will many times lose that one child who isn't paying attention or if the off-task behavior of one is more interesting than your lesson, you could lose the whole lot!

ms. v. said...

oh yeah, I'm really strict about "eyes on me" too! and with my middle school science students, it's often also, "fold your hands." it helps enforce the idea of putting down whatever you're doing and giving me your complete attention (and not snapping the rubber band from the experiment at your friend across the table). lately I've sometimes been having them put their hands on their head for the same reason (plus it's more fun). good luck!