Controlling Discipline in Today's Classroom

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Discipline is a hot topic and an everyday issue for teachers. Some teachers spend most of their time addressing discipline issues, leaving little time for instruction. What is the answer to many of today's student discipline issues?

The hot topic in most American classrooms is student discipline. Whether a beginning teacher or a seasoned veteran, classroom discipline is an everyday issue that leads to stress or satisfaction—depending upon how the day goes.

Some teachers spend most of their classroom time addressing discipline issues, leaving little time for instruction.

What is the answer to many of today’s student discipline issues?

In response to this question, Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. recently published the book, Working with Students: Discipline Strategies for the Classroom. In essence, classrooms are systems.

To create an effective classroom system, teachers can develop a plan of action for each situation before it happens. This book contains detailed, concise guidelines for specific behaviors and consequences.

Teachers should consider building relationships of mutual respect with each child. Students look for three things: insistence, support, and high expectations.

Mutual respect can be fostered through the use of “voices” developed by Eric Berne.

The voice the teacher starts with usually determines the outcome of the incident. The “child voice” tends to be whining. The “parent voice” is a “telling” voice. The “adult voice” asks questions for understanding.

“The best approach is usually one in which the teacher starts out in the adult voice and finishes in the positive parent voice with a consequence,” states Ruby Payne.

In addition, Dr. Payne provides sections on interacting with children at different grade levels. For example:

Q. How do you handle inappropriate language with high school students?

A. Teach registers of language (formal, casual, etc.). Distinguish between a slip and habitual use. Ask the student to write five other ways to say it in formal register. Explain that language is a “hidden rule” or social cue that governs how we think and interact in society – and the significance of those rules in a classroom.

Author Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. has a knack for breaking down complex problems into systems that get results. A career educator, she spent many productive years as a classroom teacher before branching out into consulting, writing, and speaking. She is the author of best-selling book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty.

Working with Students is available online at or by phone at (800) 424-9484.

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Ruth Weirich
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