Friday, February 17, 2012

Students Want Discipline (they just don't know how to say it)

As a former street cop and narcotics detective, Curtis Nightingale is no ordinary administrator. Nightingale is now an assistant principal in Pratt, Kansas, who is armed with an arsenal of child behavior strategies from his previous line of work. This is a peer who knows firsthand how to help children find themselves.

Children truly want discipline in their lives. 

I know, this statement seems overly optimistic, but I honestly believe this to be true. While to us “discipline” means expectations and consequences, to students “discipline” means structure, attention, and connection. Many of our students lack this type of construct in their home lives. Whether through a single-­‐parent working
situation, poor parenting skills, or the dreaded friend-­‐parent relationship, many children lack, yet need and want boundaries. 

Armed with this philosophy, how do we as educators approach setting and enforcing realistic boundaries with some of the most difficult students we have in class? I believe the answer lies in our ability to be firm, fair and consistent while making sure they know we care through the “connection” or relationships we build with them.

Pratt High School
Now, before you think I am one of those bleeding heart, mamsy-­‐pamsy guys I will tell you that education is a second career field for me; my first was in law enforcement. Whether as a street cop, a narcotics detective, or later as an administrator I found out fairly quickly that you would not get far in that profession without an ability to build relationships quickly. The ability to separate the person from the conduct, and to not judge was as much a survival tool as it was an investigative one. When I traded in the handcuffs for the detention list, I found that many of these same instincts were applicable. The ability to identify with what is going on with a student before you lay into them for missing a detention or being rude to a staff member is important.

Let me emphasize, I am not condoning the behavior at all. In fact, if you lay the groundwork correctly they will actually explain to you how wrong their conduct was and more often than not choose a far more aggressive consequence than the one you had in mind—you will actually have to negotiate them down from their stiff penalty to your own. Done correctly, they may even thank you for the detention/suspension they end up with. But before we get there, how can we minimize those conversations? It is as simple as moment management.

A friend and colleague of mine developed a fantastic discipline/facility management system that he literally travels the country sharing and training educators in. And although I have never taken his course, he and I were discussing classroom management one time and he said something to me that really rang true to my own philosophy. To paraphrase him, he mentioned instead of trying to think of managing an entire class, or an entire day, if teachers could just learn to manage those critical moments it could drastically reduce not only their stress levels, but also their classroom behavior issues as well. Critical moments…you know the ones. You give an instruction; Johnny challenges you…this is a moment.

In our next installment we will discuss ways we can approach these difficult moments and maintain composure while still addressing  he behavior and showing the student that rather than it being him/her versus you, it is actually you and the student versus the behavior.

Don't miss the free webinar on February 29th at 1:00 p.m. EST with Autism Training Solutions! Child behavior expert Emaley McCulloch will  present "Training Educators to Do Behavior Assessments." By the end of the webinar, participants will be able to:
  • Define and understand a range of student behaviors, and recognize why students are acting out
  • Determine the psychological and situational motivations behind student behavior
  • Use new understanding to better manage the classroom environment

1 comment:

  1. Isn’t that one of the reasons we enroll our kids in institutions? Parents know that what they teach their kids aren’t enough that is why we enroll pour kids in schools of our choice. If we are religious Christians we have Christian schools, if we want our kids or teens to stand on their own we can get them to a boarding school and if we want them to experience strict discipline then we send them to a military school. There is a school that can satisfy a parent’s choice.