Discipline is one of my favorite topics because discipline is based entirely on language. Teachers who know the language of discipline know how to maintain positive discipline in their classrooms.
Discipline requires a very clear definition and a very clear description of the student behavior(s) that teachers want or desire. This is the very first step to maintaining discipline in any environment. Thus, teachers must clearly state what it is they desire students to do. Better yet, teachers must clearly state and physically show through pictures, pantomime or modeling, or visual representations, exactly what students are to do.
For example, in every classroom demonstration I do I must tell students right away, the minute I enter the class, exactly what I wish them to do. I always walk into any classroom demo holding visual representations simple postersof what I expect students to do: I show a picture of two students sitting at a table or desk, paying attention to the teacher. (Or I show three students sitting on individual chairs without desks in front of them, if the students are sitting "auditorium style.")
I then ask students if they can do as the students are doing on the posters, and I describe exactly what they are doing: "Back against the back of their chair, feet on the ground, hand on the table, and eye on the teacher." (Or: "Back against the back of their chair, feet on the ground, hands on their lap, and eyes on the teacher.")
Most students immediately comply with my request and sit as I describe the "Attention Position." Most teachers would praise students at this time saying: "I like the way So-And-So is sitting." BUT PRAISING STUDENTS IS NOT ENOUGH!!!!!!
Because I understand that language is the key to discipline, I give students positive words that describe them: "When my students sit in the Attention Position I always tell them they are . . . . (I begin to write positive words on the board)"
"Let me see competent, self-directed, cooperative and responsible students."
At this time, all students are sitting the way I desire for my demonstration.
I also wish students would raise their hand to interact with me or with their classmates during my lesson. I show them a poster of exactly what I want: Three students raising their hand. Then I say: "When my students think about something they want to tell me, when they want to ask me a question, when they want to ask their classmates a question or talk to them, my students do this."
Then, I request students to raise their hand, as in the poster. "When my students do that, I always tell them that they are . . . . (I begin to write positive words on the board)"
"Let me see capable, dedicated, alert, and informed students." At this time all students raise their hand.
NOW IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB OF THE TEACHER to constantly provide these positive words for students who indeed keep their Attention Position throughout the lesson and keep raising their hand before participating orally in the lesson. That is why I write the positive words on the board: to constantly remind ME, the teacher, of the words I must provide students when they perform the behaviors I have visually and orally described and I have positively labeled with the positive words written on the board.
I have never found a student who fails to behave as I desire WHEN THE BEHAVIOR HAS BEEN DESCRIBED VISUALLY AND VERBALLY, and the LABELS, or positive words, FOR THE STUDENTS WHO PERFORM THE BEHAVIOR ARE CLEARLY WRITTEN ON THE BOARD.
If teachers want to have good, positive discipline in their classrooms, then, teachers must:
Now, in other questions and answers that are shown in this Web Site, you will find many positive words that I have urged teachers to use with their students. I offer you more than 150 positive words in this answer to the question on DISCIPLINE.
To establish a positive discipline in your classroom, you must begin on the very first day. There are 3,000 positive words in the English language (and an equal number in every language of the world). Thus, teachers can introduce a positive word per day, for 180 days each school year, for the 13 years that students attend school, from Kindergarten through the 12th grade . . . . and still they would not cover all 3,000 positive words in the English language!!!!!
Positive words do not have ONE definition. Each positive word has MILLIONS of definitions, because, for example, you can demonstrate you are COMPETENT by performing a million different actions well. Thus, positive words need to be introduced and re-introduced, and re-re-introduced, each time adding more ACTIONS that students are expected to DO as they mature from grade to grade. At the same time, at each grade 180 NEW positive words need to be introduced. In essence, initiating, maintaining, upgrading, and developing DISCIPLINE is a never-ending task that ALL teachers must perform on a daily basis.
Students, in a positive discipline environment, can and should also use the learned positive words when talking about themselves and when talking to their friends. In a positive discipline environment, EVERY ONE is focused on positively describing what they do, what their classmates and friends do, what teachers do, what parents do, what everyone in this positive environment does.
Here is the difference between positive and negative discipline: Recently, as I entered a middle school classroom to do a lesson demonstration, the teacher was negatively reacting to the fact that students were talking among themselves as the teachers who were coming to observe the demonstration were marching into the classroom. The teacher insisted that students were being "rude" for not keeping quiet. In essence, this teacher was telling students that she expected "rude" students to be present in her classroom. I am sure that in the future, her students will be "rude" again.
In a positive discipline environment, the teacher would have asked students to describe or would have described for the studentsexactly what (s)he expected students to do as other teachers would file into the class as observers: "Keep silence, or do some written assignment, or read a book," for example. The teacher would then write on the board (or review, if previously introduced) the positive words that describe students doing the expected behavior(s): "ATTENTIVE," "SELF-CONTROLLED," "POLITE," "WELL-MANNERED," "HELPFUL," etc. Now, as teachers come into the classroom to observe, the teacher would remind students and would describe those students who are being attentive, self-controlled, polite, well-mannered, helpful, etc. In essence, the teacher tells h(is/er) students that (s)he expects attentive, self-controlled, polite, well-mannered, helpful, etc. students in h(is/er) class. I am sure that in the future, h(is/er) students will be attentive, self-controlled, polite, well-mannered, and helpful again!!!
Here is one more example of the difference between positive and negative discipline. Many times, as I finish my lesson demonstrations, the classroom teacher takes over h(is/er) class as I prepare to depart. Although the positive words I used during the demonstration lessons are still written on the board, and the images on the posters I used to describe and show what I wanted from the students are still fresh on the students minds, teachers revert to negative discipline, again telling students how "rude" they are by starting to talk among themselves, or telling students how inconsiderate they are, or how their behavior is out or order. Well, with such negative expectations thrown at them by the classroom teacher, students proceed to be rude, inconsiderate, out of order, etc. The teacher literally gives permission for students to be rude and inconsiderate and out of order. (S)He states h(is/er) expectations. And, students meet the teachers expectations. Instead, teachers could continue to use the positive words on the board and continue to define the desirable behaviors they prefer: "Well, you have all been so capable and responsible and informed about classroom behavior during the lesson demonstration, lets continue to be capable and responsible and informed about classroom behavior while our guest departs: Lets write 5 things we enjoyed about the lesson demonstration, as we said we would write yesterday, as we planned this visit for today. I see that So-And-So over there is ready to start writing the 5 things (s)he enjoyed about the lesson. Indeed, So-And-So is very capable and responsible and informed."
Research has shown repeatedly that students do/act as expected. Then teachers must constantly express and define the 3,000 positive words that state their expectations.
See Question 48A. DISCIPLINE, PART II
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