The Not-So-Reluctant Disciplinarian - The Jose Vilson

The Not-So-Reluctant Disciplinarian

by Jose Vilson on August 28, 2007

The Reluctant DisciplinarianFor any new teacher, I would recommend Gary Rubenstein’s The Reluctant Disciplinarian, a book of one teacher’s journey towards becoming the ultimate disciplinarian. Well, it’s not as fabricated as that, but it’s certainly worth a read. It’s hilarious, and an easy read. More importantly, it reaches a wide audience: it’s mainly for first year teachers, but teachers of any age can read it either for better perspective on their own disciplinary tactics or simply to refresh what they know (since they may have been away from a school for a whole summer).

My transformation to Mr. V is about 30-50% there. All I need to remember is the discipline side of things. I believe discipline in an urban school is 75% of the job; the academics come naturally to me since I have an affinity for math. I’ve already picked up read aloud books, been given some good material for my math library, and have some ideas for how I want to set up my seating arrangements. Once I see my classroom today, Mr. V will definitely be up to 60%.

But the one thing that concerns me is still that discipline because it’s the most fluctuating and the most dependent on the most undependable of things: human nature. Despite that, there are a few things I’ve kept in my back pocket that, like Rubenstein, work well for me. These are just some.

1. Say hello to the kids every morning. Simple enough, but it works.

2. Don’t scream or shout. Just be patient. Sometimes these techniques work, but it’s easy for them to tune it out when you do it frequently enough. When the kids get too loud and they have yet to catch their attention, I simply state, “I’m doing my job, so you’ll let me know.

2.5. Keep them in for extended periods or after school if they waste too much of your time.

3. Take attendance at the beginning of every single class. Not one.

4. “No” is my favorite word as Mr. V. Use it. Even if, as Jose, you think that “No” is absurd, hardheaded, and stubborn, it’s still the best thing to do.

5. Find a balance that works for you between the personal and professional. Some teachers act out and take things too personally when kids do something, but it’s really about their position. Others take things too professionally and end up losing the desired effect they wish to have on their kids. (Especially in urban schools, this component is important).

6. Talk to other teachers and find your own niche. Even during times when I felt on top of the world, I’d go around to other teachers and watch their classrooms, not just for discipline reasons but for academic reasons.

7. Be consistent with whatever you do. To piggyback off of Rubenstein,  if you’re going to be easy on the homework, be so consistently. Don’t just switch it up whenever you feel like it. Follow your rules. Consistency is your best weapon.

8. Call parents as soon as kids who you know you can affect go astray. And for the kids you know don’t have parents to call, … good luck, and hopefully the other disciplinary tips work out.

9. Be one with your inner teacher. It’s something I didn’t fully understand until I became an avid fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a critically-acclaimed cartoon on Nickelodeon. When I go into the classroom as Mr. V, that’s exactly who I am and can’t anyone stop me. There’s a certain aura that I have that emits a certain confidence and preparedness. In my “avatar” state, I’m at my most powerful, but also my most vulnerable. If acting is the art of being, then be one with your avatar.

10. Look for your kids in other classes and see how they behave with other teachers. And just for that respect / fear factor, interject when possible. I don’t know what it is, but when the kids felt that I was watching their every move, they respected me even more.

I’m still learning as much as the next person about these things, so none of these rules are set in stone.

Any other suggestion for new(er) teachers?

mr. v, who doesn’t usually pull a miss nelson if nothing else works …

“Miss Nelson Is Missing”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Frumteacher August 29, 2007 at 9:58 am

Great post! We seem to have been reading the same book: http://frumteacher.blogspot.com/2007/08/back-to-school.html
I really hope I will be able to put some of Bernstein’s ideas into action. There is one particular class I worry about, and I really want to make it work this year.

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Clix August 29, 2007 at 9:18 pm

Smile! THEN say “No.” It shows that you are still a human being. But don’t say “no” and then smile, because then they may think you’re kidding.

I say, “I love you” a lot. A LOT. And to make sure it is neither inappropriate nor cliched, I say, “You know I love you, (name)… in a totally professional, appropriate and non-threatening way.” (Plus it stretches their vocabulary a little. *g*)

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markbey August 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Jose great post my man.

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Eric August 29, 2007 at 10:20 pm

I’m hoping you’ll post your classroom set-up(s) soon so I can link to ‘em. Let me know when you do!

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Jose August 29, 2007 at 10:31 pm

@ Frumteacher, I noticed. I commented on it. Thanks for commenting.

@ Clix: HAHA, that’s evil. I’ve done the former and the latter with varying success.

@ Markbey: thanks

@ Eric: I’m on it. I’ll do the sketches during my PD and I’ll get to work on them.

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Annmary August 30, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Even at a young age, classroom management and discipline is so important. I love “Miss Nelson is Missing.” I used to tell the kids that Ms. Swamp is going to come in, instead of me. It gets them every time, lol.

I gotta stop reading your posts about teaching, because I’m thisclose to going back…

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Jose August 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm

HAHA, Annmary, that’s the point. ;-)

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redkudu August 30, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Just want to reiterate the all-important #1 on your list (say hello to the kids every morning) with this:

Greet your students at the door every morning (or every period) with a warm, sincere welcome.

No matter what time of the day it is, and no matter what class period, you may very well be the first person who has said a kind word to them all day.

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siobhan curious September 2, 2007 at 10:11 am

I latched on to your point about consistency – I think it’s one of the most important things to remember. If they know what to expect, then they’ll know what they can and can’t get away with. Otherwise, they’ll keep testing.

We have a great conversation about discipline, especially at the beginning of the semester, going on at

http://siobhancurious.wordpress.com/2007/08/22/mean-til-halloween-classroom-discipline-and-the-first-day-of-the-semester/

I’ll link to your post – I think your tips apply to a whole range of classroom settings!

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