Thus said my boss. It’s meant as a compliment (he said that, too). We keep coming across things no one has taken a moment to train me on because everyone keeps forgetting I’ve never done 99% of what a high school teacher has been trained to do. I keep thinking I’m trained enough, until I come across moments where I just plain don’t know how to best handle the situation.
Thankfully, the book Before You Can Discipline, a classroom management book, has been showing me that I’ve instinctively been doing the right thing, for the most part. I have the patience and empathy part; I just need to learn how to execute discipline.
I’ve been hesitant with the discipline part because I’ve tried a few things and they simply didn’t work. Here’s a passage from the book that’s finally given me the tools I need:
“‘Tell students, ‘I don’t decide; your behavior tells me what I must do.’ … First, drop all pretense that you are the holder of power, the boss, and totally responsible for what students do or do not do… You cannot control them. Most important, tell students you don’t want to control them.
Then, tell students they hold the power to determine the degree of their freedom. It’s their mature use of power to discipline themselves which determines the degree. Say, ‘I don’t make the rules in this class. I don’t decide what you can and can’t do. I’m the teacher–and responsible for all of you, but your behavior tells me what I can and can’t allow you to do. Your behavior tells me what rules to make–and which ones aren’t necessary… In truth, when you misbehave, you are asking me to do something. So don’t get made when I must correct you–or when I make a rule. You told me to correct you, or make the rule, through your behavior.'”
Needs a smidge of revising, but close enough.
I have a group of students craving independence and to preserve some sense of control. Whenever I’ve tried to “take over” they’ve just gotten defiant or shut down. It makes me helpless to help them, and it doesn’t motivate them to handle things better.
I have a feeling that, if they can build a connection between consequences and their actions, they’ll start making better decisions. Right now, so many of them live in their own little, broken world and can’t see out it yet. Also, many of them do a lot dumb things to cover up how much they’re hurting on the inside. They’re just acting human. The tough part is, they’re doing that in a school setting with fellow youths who don’t know how to handle these bumpy moments in adult fashion. It creates a volatile mixture that explodes sometimes. At least I’m able to diffuse situations reasonably well.
I’m very thankful for having a boss (yet again) that wants me to grow, not just look for an excuse to fire me.