While many aspects of teaching can be intimidating, the most challenging and also the most necessary for inexperienced teachers to master, is the development of a tested and functioning model for student behavior and classroom management. While the majority of teachers, both veteran and novice alike, would agree that the end result of a well-managed classroom allows the instructor to engage the class more effectively and students to become more “self-directing, responsible, and concerned about the well-being” of their classmates, few teachers would agree as to the specific means of establishing and implementing behavioral guidelines. In other words, while many educators share the end objective of teaching in an orderly and responsive classroom environment, the actual process of creating and executing specific behavior management rules, policies, and consequences is one that each teacher must formulate individually, together with the input of his or her students. Before teachers are ready to lead their students in a discussion about classroom discipline, however, they must first prepare their own views by identifying their unique philosophy of discipline or synthesis of behavior management. In outlying my philosophy of discipline, I will touch on five main points, including: general management principles, general class procedures, classroom environment, expected activities and products, and desists and consequences.
In my mind, a teacher’s general management principles represent the goals or objectives they have for their students, their classroom, and themselves. Of all the categories, this one will almost certainly be the most general and theoretical in nature because it corresponds to the ideal or the model of a superlative classroom, rather than conforming to a specific situation. Teachers can use the desired outcomes summarized within this category as a basis for establishing their actual procedures, activities, and consequences later on. One of the most common goals shared by teachers as they contemplate their philosophies of discipline is preventing student misbehavior. Charles argues that teachers can suppress misbehavior most effectively by “treat[ing] students sensitively, providing an interesting curriculum, and using a helpful teaching style”. In other words, teachers can help curb deviant behavior by ensuring that lessons are fun and engaging, by offering students opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways, and by ensuring that the needs of the class are addressed and met “in non-disruptive ways”. Another common objective shared by many teachers in formulating their philosophies of discipline is the establishment of trusting relationships between the teacher and his or her students. One way to do this is to incorporate some of Alfie Kohn’s suggestions for fostering a sense of community in the classroom. He emphasizes the importance of creating a space in which students feel “valued and connected to each other” and where the teacher can model positive behavior for his or her students. C. M. Charles seconds these views regarding student/teacher interaction and class dynamic with his thoughts on synergy and synergistic relationships. He states that “misbehavior disappears” when the teacher and students actively strive to establish “trust, communication, charisma, and interest” in learning. The TExES teaching competency that is most representative of this category within my synthesis of behavior management is 006, Organizing Learning & Behavior Management. A reference to this competency is appropriate as it focuses on a teacher’s ability to visualize, understand, and implement a positive and productive learning environment his or her students.
Where general management principles represent the broader, more theoretical pedagogical goals and objectives of my philosophy of discipline, general class procedures represent the actual day-to-day measures that I will try and follow to ensure that my goals for student behavior and classroom management are met. One of the ways Edmund Emmer suggests for maintaining appropriate student behavior is to establish a routine. While teachers should not by any means feel bound by their usual schedule, proceeding smoothly from one activity to the next can make transitions more seamless and can help to retain student attention and interest. One sequence that Emmer cites as especially effective is the progression from an opening, such as an academic warm-up while the teacher performs his or her administrative duties, to checking class work or homework, to content area development, to seatwork, to group work, or a class discussion, and finally to a closing period in which students will be allowed ample time to put their materials away and prepare for their next class. While it is important to incorporate a variety of learning styles and approaches, I think it is also important to try and keep the students comfortable with at least some semblance of routine that can act as a cue in shaping their class room behavior. The TExES competency that best correlates with this category of my synthesis of behavior management is 004: Learning Processes. This competency is most suitable because it centers on a teacher’s ability to plan effective classroom routines and practices to help ensure student learning and engagement.
Another important aspect in my synthesis of behavior management reflects how best to create an effective and supportive classroom environment. Again, Edmund Emmer’s research and suggestions regarding this topic are extremely useful. He argues that to minimize deviant student behavior and maximize active student engagement and participation, teachers should do the following: identify clear and appropriate instructional goals and expectations, insist that students complete the work satisfactorily, communicate acceptance of imperfect initial performance, avoid comparative evaluations and convey confidence in the student’s ability to well . Emmer also advocates the use of rewards in some situations. While there are many possible rewards, I personally feel that the most effective for developing intrinsic motivation within secondary students include, encouraging improvement, extra-credit assignments, and special activities and enrichment privileges. Another important aspect of classroom environment that I feel is critical in suppressing and preventing student misbehavior is designing the physical space of the classroom. I think the actual arrangement of the desks can foster learning and student engagement and I personally advocate the “runway model”, as I feel it provides students with the best access to the teacher and the teacher the best use of the space in the classroom. Emmer’s checklist at the end of chapter one has many good suggestions for trying to establish appropriate room arrangement, including the use of bulletin boards and wall space, floor space, and storage space and access to supplies. Lastly, a final aspect that contributes to the formation of a positive and productive class environment is ensuring that your students enjoy complete freedom of expression. The classroom should be a place in which students feel free to express themselves without fear of ridicule or critique. A class based on divergent thinking will produce students who will be more engaged, more responsive, and less likely to digress into deviant behavior. The two TExES competencies that correspond with this section of my synthesis of behavior management are 005: Classroom Climate and 006: Organizing Learning and Behavior Management. These two competencies relate to this section because they both speak to the need for teachers to create a safe and productive class environment that fosters learning, fairness, and the highest educational expectations and standards.
Another important category to consider when formulating a philosophy of discipline is expected activities and products that the students will be required to complete. While it is difficult to anticipate a detailed and specific syllabus at this point, one thing that I can say with certainty is that I will do my utmost to offer my students as much variety and choice when it comes to activities and products as I can. I know from own experiences in school that while a routine can be positive in helping to reduce the down time during transitions; too much regularity can produce boredom and disengagement on the part of the students. That is why I am a devoted proponent of diversity when it comes to topics, activities, grouping students, and evaluation. While I understand that there is a state mandated program underlying much of the curriculum (TEKS), I feel that students should be given as many opportunities as possible to pursue their own interests. I also think it is critical to provide students ownership for their own learning and assessment. As we saw in the alternative assessment video, having students evaluate themselves and their peers through a class-created rubric is much more authentic than the traditional means of assessment. It also prepares students for real life situations in which they will be judged on their progression of improvement in a collected portfolio, rather than one grade on one standardized test. Offering students variety, choice, and authentic products and assessment will help increase engagement, learning, and genuine enjoyment of the subject matter and proportionally decrease deviant behavior. The TExES teaching competency that best aligns with this portion of my synthesis of discipline is 007: Effective Communication in Varied Contexts. This competency is most appropriate as it deals with the need for teachers to ably incorporate a variety of teaching and learning styles to reduce student misbehavior in the classroom.
The last segment in formulating my synthesis for classroom management is a brief look at what desists and consequences I may have to employ and enforce when student misbehavior occurs. While it is important to remember that there is no pat solution that will always work in every situation; one effective tactic a teacher should employ is to take the time in the beginning of the year to formulate a contract with his or her students with regards to classroom rules and consequences. Once students are given the opportunity to take ownership of classroom rules and polices and to contribute to the class agreement in meaningful ways, they will be much more likely to adhere to its precepts. If, however, there are still instances of misbehavior, Emmer has some sound suggestions and techniques that are worth testing out. Among his ideas for responding to minor interventions are, using non-verbal cues, reducing time between activities, moving closer to the students, redirecting misbehavior, giving students a choice, or using “I – messages” . For a more moderate or repeat offenses, Emmer suggests, withholding privileges, isolating or removing students, using a fine or penalty, or assigning detention. And when more immediate interventions are necessary for more major transgressions, Emmer recommends holding a conference with a parent. When meeting with a parent, however, it is important to remember that teachers should be prepared to first mention some of the student’s strengths, abilities, or progress before delving immediately into a critical look at necessary improvements. One final thought with regards to consequences for student misbehavior is to stress the importance of ensuring that the consequences correspond to the transgressions. Teachers should be prepared to explain their reasoning to their students, and the more sound, fair, and consistent the judgment, the more likely the students will learn from the experience and exhibit more positive behavior in the future.