Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher – by Julia Thompson

Common Mistakes

  • Thompson devotes 2+ pages to this subject. Here is a sample
  • Giving students free time: Activities should allow students to use all available time.
  • Allowing students to not engage in an activity or sleep: Sends the message that the class is not important.
  • Not being fair: Students will spot this quickly and report to parents.
  • Putting students in the hall for extended time or sending to the office too quickly: Try a short conversation in the hall. Use a clam voice and try to develop a relationship.
  • Not assessing students’ literacy skills or not using the results of such assessment
  • Not monitoring student activity for the entire class
  • Not contacting parents early and often
  • Lacking enthusiasm for what you teach and not relating content to real world

Cultivate Your Leadership Role

  • Classroom charisma is a set of acquired skills. First is to avoid distractions during class. This includes grading papers, using your cell phone, and checking email. Have students assist with routine tasks when possible. Use your planning time for planning, arrive early, and stay late. Gather data on your classroom competence. Don’t forget to use student surveys and use your data to create strategies to improve. Thompson provides self-assessment instruments to help along with ways to prevent stress. There is also a long list of ways to promote professional behavior, and suggestions for being prepared. Take the are you too permissive quiz and check the extensive list of body language tips. Also make sure your language isn’t part of a problem. Sarcasm and mocking doesn’t work.

Foster a Positive Environment

  • A positive environment has to be safe and attractive. Your choices should promote traffic flow, provide for private conversations, and efficiency. There is lots of specific advice here including some on cyber bullying. Thompson also takes on shared rooms and crowded rooms. It helps to maintain a brisk, businesslike pace to the action. Plan to start as soon as students enter and don’t give free time at the end. The first ten minutes are critical and there are lots of ideas for this and for effective transitions. Keep your eye on the clock and plan for summarizing and what comes next. Teacher attendance is key. You lose control when you aren’t there.

Promote Self-Discipline

  • You want students to become self-directed, which can take time. You need to be consistent. Show your positive side but don’t be falsely cheerful of flattering. Acknowledge student effort and promote the notion that success requires effort. Intervene early, listen carefully, but don’t be a pushover by accepting excuses. Hold students accountable for their own success. Give students a syllabus and checklists, and help them monitor their own learning. Focus on student strengths. Look for opportunities to use peer teaching and learning. Let students with expertise share it. Thompson offers advice on dealing with impulsive students, students with ADD, and under achievers. There is also advice on helping students to set goals and samples of behavior contracts.
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