In his seminar on classroom management, behavioral researcher and professor, Glenn Latham tells the story of a teacher who was particularly abusive to her students. Not just 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 could be an exaggeration, as was evident one weekend if they burned her classroom to the ground.
That said, we’d be wise not to come calmly to the conclusion that discipline shouldn’t play an essential role in student behavior at school. What’s essential is that they be treated with respect, even if they are not doing what they know they ought to and that discipline, when it is necessary is applied appropriately. Tragic as it may be, this is not always the case in the present schools.
As a teacher, there’s 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 environment requires great planning and discipline on the part of the teacher and administrators school. 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 school year. Good teachers, he tells us, spend a lot of time preparing for the fist few days of school, and then spend the very first a couple of weeks developing and rehearsing procedures which will create the classroom environment to last throughout the year.
In his book, Teach Such as a Champion, Doug Lemov tells of a teacher who spends the very first hour of the very first day of school teaching students to distribute papers. “We did that in 33 seconds,” he tells them, “let’s see when we can’t have it under thirty seconds this time.” Lemov continues to indicate that such rehearsals aren’t a waste of time and estimates that teacher saves several hours within the length of the entire year by having this procedure in place.
However, this is not almost acquiring proficiency, it’s about making a warm nurturing environment where students can learn and thrive. Systems and procedures need to be in position and well practiced so that students know what’s required of them in addition to what the expected outcomes will soon be because of their behavior. The web effect is really a huge decrease in stress levels for both the students and the teachers, and with less stress, teachers are free to engage and instruct at a high level.
So how can we prevent vandalism and teach kids respect? We do it by first demonstrating ourselves the behaviors we want to instill in our students, by treating them with respect even whenever we don’t think they deserve it, and by putting systems into place which will ensure growth. Kids in that kind of environment are highly unlikely to want to destroy property and, maybe even moreover, are far more likely to create a significant contribution to the planet in the future.