Posted on: October 27, 2011

The dreaded word. Teachers are always worried about this issue more than any other I think. Students will either learn or not learn what we try to teach them. They are either capable or not. But, if there are students in the classroom that continually ‘misbehave’ then everyone is penalized. When a teacher finds them self spending more time disciplining than teaching them no one in the class can achieve their full potential.

So, what is bad behaviour? How you define the term is the starting point for anyone. The innate problem is that no two teachers will ever truly agree with each other on the definition. What one teacher accepts in class as ‘ok’ another may feel is completely inappropriate in their class. An observer may go in to the two classrooms, see the same behaviour from students and see two completely different approaches to the ‘problem’. And this third person may have a different view of what is happening and what to do about it than the original two!

This has to be where the school steps in. In order for teachers to create an atmosphere where good behaviour is praised and bad behaviour is not accepted the definition of the two must be made. And more importantly it has to be kept to. If everyone accepts differing standards of behaviour and if students are constantly changing their behaviour to fit in with the teacher’s expectations, then everyone is fighting a losing cause. How many students do you know that have given the answer “but Miss Such-and-such never tells us off for that”? Or worse, “Why can’t you be nice like Mr What’s -his-name?” On the other end of the scale how many of your students think you are ‘a push over’ who never disciplines anyone for anything?

Yes, these are the extremes. But the fact of the matter is that there are teachers out there like that and it’s NOT their fault! If the school has a defined behaviour code then these extremes cannot exist, if a school has a defined behaviour code teachers can spend more time teaching than disciplining because everyone in the school will be ‘on the same page’ and discipline issues in the classroom will naturally become less and less.

What does this look like? Naturally each school is different. Depending on the type of school, who is in charge, how big the school is etc etc etc, each school will approach the defining of a behaviour code differently. But it has to be there!

I introduced what happens in my school on @ePaceonline’s blog last week. I am not saying that schools should be the same as mine. However, we do seem to have just about every base covered. Academic, Negligence and Behaviour are all covered in our code, with a coding system for each. Teachers write the code for the behaviour along with the student’s name and this is put into the computer system at the end of the day. At this point the computer system creates a report, and if required a specific punishment. This is usually after repeated offenses of the same behaviour etc. it will also be dependent on the Grade of the student ie a student in Grade Ten will be more likely to be punished for a discipline issue than a Grade Two student because at their age they should really know better. Parents can see all the “infractions” on the school web site if they wish and the information is available to those who need to have meetings with the parents.

Academic infractions include such issues as Not Working, Not Paying Attention, No Homework, Copied Homework, Incomplete Homework, show that the student is not taking their education seriously.

Negligence infractions include such issues as No Book / PE kit / Pencil Case, Unprepared for Lesson.

Behaviour infractions have a huge range. There are almost fifty in this code alone. Starting with Improper Uniform, Sleeping/Eating in Class, Disrupting Class in a variety of manners, littering, going through Throwing Objects, Playing in Class, Disrespect, Missing Classes and to Bullying, Fighting, Damaging School Property, Stealing and Endangering Others. Teaching the younger end of the school there are many of these that I have never used ( thank goodness).

In fact, there are probably many of the infractions that have never been used by teachers in school. Why? Because students are more than aware of what the infractions are and how they will be dealt with if ever caught breaking them. So what can happen. For the ‘less severe’ there tends to be a build up of consequences. The first time there will be a verbal warning, subsequent times there may be detention at lunchtime, after school or on Thursday morning. From Grade Four there are report books issued that teachers sign if the student has behaved well and that parents have to sign to show they have seen. For the more extreme and severe infractions there are exclusions that last a day / week / permanent. Parents are brought into school once detentions outside of school hours come into effect.

As I said, I would not expect many schools to have such a detailed behaviour code as this, but it is something to think about isn’t it? All our teachers use the code, especially in Grade Three and above. Our little three-year-olds are given some leniency as you can expect. I mean, seriously, can they stay sitting for twenty minutes without moving or talking? The Infant Department only use the infraction paper in extreme instances. It is more likely that a quick ‘telling off’ and, if needed, a phone call home is what is needed. The child will not remember tomorrow what he did today. We build up to it. Detentions start in Grade Two once the students leave Infants and are deemed more self-aware and self-sufficient. Report Books start in Grade Four.

I hope that this has given you something to think about. How does your school deal with the issue of behaviour, misbehavior and discipline?


2 Responses to "Discipline."

Keeley, this is a very useful and interesting post. I particularly like the opening paragraphs about what is OK for one teacher is not for another. I have experience of tracking a pupil in my form many years ago. I spent several days being a pupil alongside them in their lessons. It was a defining moment for me; to see how they constantly had to move and adapt to different rules and expectations in every class – depending on who was teaching them.
The system you describe offers consistency and security with the flexibility for adaptation for infant children. Thank you.

Mary. Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right. I always track what my Grade Two class are doing in other lessons with the infraction sheet. It never ceases to amaze me that I consistently attain good discipline with each year’s class and yet other teachers are writing every lesson about the same kids. I actually had to talk to the class about it on Wednesday – I couldn’t believe how they had obviously behaved. I had to do the whole ‘I’m disappointed with you” speech. Hopefully I won’t have to again for a while! Keely

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