Maintaining your authority in the classroom

There are three primary goals when disciplining a student or a group of students:

     1.) Get back to teaching as soon as possible,
     2.) Treat the student/s with dignity, and
     3.) Maintain the teacher's authority.

Let's dig into Goal #3.

One of the easiest ways to diminish a teacher's authority is by sending students outside the classroom. There are definitely times when a student should be removed from the classroom. However, this should be the exception, and by no means the norm. A teacher should, by all means, try to deal with the issue within the classroom.

When a teacher sends a student outside the classroom i.e., to another classroom or an administrators' office, the student indirectly receives the following message: "I don't know what to do with you. I can't handle you right now so I am sending you to someone else and they will deal with you." The teacher basically gives his/her authority to someone else.

If the primary goal is to remain teaching, you do not want to be pressured into taking a long instructional interruption to deal with a discipline issue. One effective strategy to quickly get back to teaching is to delay consequences. Here is some possible dialogue: "This kind of behavior is not acceptable in our classroom. I'm going to have to do something about it. I don't know what it will be because I'm busy teaching right now. I'll let you know. Don't worry about it" (This last line, "Don't worry about it" is a little reverse psychology. It will have the opposite effect---It will cause a person to think, possibly worry, about what the consequence will be).

In some situations, a student may need another place to cool off. This also would give the teacher an opportunity to possibly cool down. There is a better way to remove a student from a classroom in these exceptions; a way that maintains a teacher's authority.

1.) Make an arrangement with an administrator that when you send a student to his/her office, the only thing the student should be doing is cooling off. The administrator could simple show empathy for the student i.e., "How sad, I know Mrs. Smith has a plan on how to deal with this. Don't worry about it" (Again, this phrase increases a student's seriousness towards the situation). The administrator should not try to solve the problem by engaging in a lengthy "lecture" style discussion.

2.) The teacher could meet with other teachers or the administrator later that day to brainstorm possible consequences and ways to deal with the discipline problem.

3.) When the teacher follows up with the student, he/she could have the administrator sit in on the discussion. All of the administrator's comments would reinforce the teacher's authority and professional know-how.

How do you see this working in your school?

With something to think about,

Mr. Russell