Starting a new school year on a positive note with a classroom or group of students is important. It’s important for learning. It’s important for teamwork. It’s important for enjoyment. Let’s just say, it’s important for everything!
One way to start the year on a positive note is creating an environment that minimizes negative student behavior and maximizes the positive. Unfortunately, too many students are losing critical opportunities for learning – and too many teachers are leaving the profession – because of the negative behavior of a few students. Student discipline is and continues to be a major concern to teachers and parents that affects both teacher morale and student learning.
I recently came across The Teaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Problems in Today’s Public Schools Foster the Common Good? study, conducted by Public Agenda in 2004. While the study was done quite a few years ago, I believe the story it tells still resonates in 2019. The study was based on a national random sample of 725 middle and high school teachers and 600 parents of middle and high school students. The results of the survey are insightful and alarming…
The vast majority of both teachers (85%) and parents (73%) say the school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.
- Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them they have rights or that their parents can sue.
- Nearly half of teachers (49%) complain they have been accused of unfairly disciplining a student.
- More than half of teachers (55%) said that districts backing down from assertive parents causes discipline problems.
- Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) say there are persistent behavior problem students in their school who should be removed from the regular classroom.
- More than 1 in 3 teachers say they have seriously considered quitting the profession – or know of a colleague who has left – because student discipline and behavior became so intolerable. And 85% believe new teachers are particularly unprepared for dealing with behavior problems.
The study found that, although problems are more severe in urban and lower income area schools, student behavior and discipline is a pervasive problem that extends to schools across the country, regardless of demographics.
When asked to identify the causes of such widespread misbehavior, 82% of teachers and 74% of parents cited ‘parents’ failure to teach their children discipline as the primary reason. The “disrespect everywhere in our culture” that “students absorb” and bring to school was second on the list (73% of teachers, 68% of parents). Other factors cited included overcrowded schools and classrooms, parents who are too hasty in challenging school decisions on discipline, districts that back down from assertive parents and teachers who ease up on discipline because they worry they may not get support.
There is no quick and easy answer or solution on how to deal with student behavior problems. We can’t ignore it either. The stakes have never been higher for student achievement. We can’t continue to allow a minority of students from keeping a majority of students from learning and teachers from teaching. We also can’t allow quality, skilled and caring teachers – including you – from leaving the profession over it.
As an individual teacher, you can’t always control how your school administrators or district will handle student discipline problems. However, there are things you can control and do in your own classroom that can make a positive difference for the students and you. Over the next several weeks I will be sharing classroom management tips and techniques you can experiment with. What works for one teacher may not work for all teachers. What works for one student may not work for all students. The methods I offer are intended to be used by you with that in mind. If anything, I hope they offer you hope and insight as you begin a new school year.
I would love to hear from you also as to what you have found works for you. Email me your tips and I would be happy to share them in future blog posts!
Wishing you a school year that starts on a positive note and stays that way throughout the year!