Perhaps the single most important aspect of teaching is classroom management. You can't successfully teach your students if you are not in control. This is also a concern of your principal and your students' parents. Many teachers have lost their jobs due to poor classroom management.
Why Do I Have a Problem?
There are many reasons why discipline can be a problem in your classroom. One of the reasons could be your teaching style. If you aren't reaching every one of your students, they can become bored, disinterested and restless. As mentioned in the section on instruction, every student has their own learning style and an area where they excel. If you are reaching these students by using a variety of methods, they are motivated and less likely to cause trouble.
Another reason for discipline issues is that you may be dealing with students with many personal problems. I have personally dealt with students who witnessed their fathers being gunned down, their mother throwing them out of a moving car on the expressway, their fathers beating them so much they were hospitalized, a family member (usually a step-father) molesting them, being forced into the drug trade by their parents, and rape. How can a student learn when all they can think about is what they are going home to later that afternoon? Will their rage transfer to the classroom?
Any abuse you discover must be reported to the proper authorities. In most states, the department of child protective services are overworked and understaffed. You will probably get little help from them. What can you do to address the issues? Will you have time to act as counselor in addition to your regular teaching duties?
Following are a few strategies to deal with troubled students:
Refer them to the school counselor. If your counselor is unable to squeeze the student in or is relegated to performing administrative duties by the principal, go to step 2.
Refer them to a local social services agency. There are many that are either free or low in cost. For example, the Fan Free Clinic offers low cost substance abuse services, affordable housing, medical treatment, and a food pantry. Many local churches also provide free services.
Contact your local United Way agency. They distribute their money to many social organizations and can give you a list of potential agencies. The Salvation Army is one of the largest social care providers in the world. They can also give you important advice.
In larger urban areas, gang activity affects discipline. As part of initiation, students who become members are forced to perform a crime. This crime may occur in your school. Students involved in gangs should be immediately referred to the school administrator. There are ways to recognize students involved in gangs and head off problems early. Following are helpful websites:
Your principal will expect you to take care of discipline problems and only send students who either have severe misbehavior or habitual offenses. Gum chewing and talking out are not reasons to send a student to the office. I have heard many principals say, "I knew that this student must have been a big problem because Mrs. ___ rarely sends students to the office and when she does it's for a good reason." You will get much more support from your principal if you take care of the vast majority of your discipline problems.
If your principal doesn't ask you for a copy of your discipline plan, give him/her a copy of your plan so he or she knows exactly what a student has to do in your classroom to be sent to the office. Sending a student to the office should be a last resort.
Unfortunately, there are many philosophies and styles of discipline and it can be hard to decide what works best for you. What works for one teacher may not work for another. The best thing to do is to pick one that you think will be successful and make adjustments later if you have problems. Most experts will say it is better to err on the side of being too strict because it is much more difficult to later raise the bar.
Another important component of a successful classroom management program is a clear set of procedures. Once students know exactly what they are expected to do with repetitive daily procedures, there will be less behavioral problems. This PDF document on Art Room Procedures will be helpful when coming up with procedures.
Common Discipline Methods
This is the one I used for classroom discipline. It was created by Lee Canter. Canter believes that if you "catch" a student being good by recognizing them when they behave, they will work harder at behaving. He also believes that there should be consistent consequences of breaking the rules that are very clear.
In a nutshell, the teacher comes up with no more than five rules for the classroom. Each time a rule is broken, a consequence is given. If the misbehavior continues, the consequences get more severe every time. At the same time, students are rewarded for behaving properly. This can range from a field trip, pizza party, and a snack.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
This is a fairly new system that rewards positive student behavior. Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important step of a student's educational experience. PBIS focuses on these four items:
Thomas R. McDaniel published an article that has become a very popular manual for classroom management. There are eleven techniques that are explained that help you achieve control. The methods are Focusing, Direct Instruction, Monitoring, Modeling, Non-Verbal Cuing, Environmental Control, Low-Profile Intervention, Assertive Discipline, Assertive I-Messages, Humanistic I-Messages, and Positive Discipline.
This controversial discipline program, created by Richard L. Curwin and Allen N. Mendler, is based on the premise that students are treated with dignity at all times. It is meant to build self-esteem and encourage responsible behavior. This program is especially helpful in severe situations that frequently occur in inner-city schools. Typically a contract is created by both the student and the teacher. The contract includes prevention, "action dimension," and resolution. Your rules must make sense and be fair.
Prevention is done with pre-planning to eliminate possible areas of problems. Make sure students are aware of what is expected of them. The action consists of record keeping and classroom management. Finally the resolution component is dealing with the continual rule breaker. Discipline should not interfere with motivation. Teach responsibility rather than obedience.
The controversy with this method is the length a teacher goes to protect student dignity and the fact there is no punishment. Students frequently select their own consequences. Teacher responses to severe discipline problems is unusual. In this author's opinion, use this program when others fail. Read more about the program here.
Reality Therapy (RT)
This program was created by William Glasser. The emphasis of this program is to help students connect behavior with consequence. This is done with class meetings, clear rules, and contracts. This also includes Positive Approach to Discipline (PAD), which is based on Reality Therapy.
This program by Dr. Eric Berne, is based on the premise that every human has a child, adult, and parent psyche. Students and teachers are encouraged to stay in the adult domain and avoid a parent/child relationship. Problems are dealt with cooperation and goodwill. Like Discipline With Dignity, there is a strong focus on self esteem and motivation.
This is another popular student discipline strategy. The purpose of TET is to increase time on task. There are seven skills that are taught in a TET classroom. The curriculum design is based on a four-step learning model, SIPA.
There are many other discipline methods out there. Some teachers may find that they do best by combining several methods together. Every teacher is different and go with what works for you. Following are other methods:
Be sure that your instructional periods are NOT too long, students need to be mobile throughout the day.
Provide individual , personal cueing and prompts to certain students as needed. Sometimes just touching a student's shoulder will bring them back to task.
POST the important rules - keep it short, no more than 6 and refer to it often. These should be posted after the class has brainstormed them.
Make sure you are teaching to all the various learning styles your students have. A students who is not being reached is more likely to be a problem.
Consistent approaches to classroom management will work, effective classroom management takes time and should be seriously implemented at the beginning of the year. Show your students respect at all times, students who think they're not liked will become your biggest behavior issue. For tips on dealing with specific behaviors (aggression, tattling etc.) try the tips here.
Children with ADHD present unique problems. These students have short attention spans and need to be in motion. There is a great article by Harlan Brownlee [Archive] that offers tips for managing them in the art room. It offers suggestions to control movement so that chaos doesn't ensue.
A reward system is also important for good discipline. You can use "Mona Bucks" to give to students. These can either be used as certificates or traded in for prizes at the end of the semester/year.
"We came up with a "peace box" in which students refer other students who are representing best practices of the problem solving steps. These students would be announced on a certain day. When students get positive referrals they receive a panther buck, a positive note or call home, and a get to be part of a group picture that is hung on the wall. This website was suggested to give us some ideas on where we want to go with our problem solving steps. We are also thinking about lessons that we used in our Second Step Program that helps teach social skills.
The following discipline ideas have been posted on the art education list group:
"I give "quiet lotion". Just a small squirt of lotion to remind them to be quiet (they can smell it to "remind" them to be quiet) really works! Kids just say no thanks if they don't want it. Suave in the big bottles is what I use sandalwood/cinnamon rocks. I also erase one of three smiley faces on the board for noise control..." - Ali
"I found that if I started with the expectation that the kids needed to get quiet before we started as well [as] quiet before I left (5 minutes each) the students were responsive. I would have an activity to begin with, such as looking at a work of art, a "silent game" where "winners" could get their supplies first (and thus get the "best" supplies -- sharpest crayons, best choice of paper color, coolest instrument... or just get the chance to start sooner, which is rewarding in itself!). I would have clean-up about 5-10 minutes before the end (depending on media) and then another "silent game"... such as turn lights off, put heads down, and surprise their teacher by being still and silent, acting like we don't exist." - Becky Hopkins
"...To transition students, we gather in meeting area-children called over by table as soon as they are quiet - for discussion/demonstration-then when done, tell class that quiet "ready" children get their paint or clay/supplies first-everyone wants to get going, so this works-Second idea I do in classes with teachers who need strict order upon return is to carry a little booklet of stickers; after clean up children who are quiet and ready at their desks get one-this seems to work well too." - Georgia in Boston
From Jenny: Several suggestions regarding classroom management
Have everything in order before the students arrive, down to the smallest details.
- Think very carefully about where you want each student to sit. If you have tables, make sure the dominate students sit facing you and are spread around the class.
- Keep changing their seats every class until you find a composition that works for you and don't just change the students you are having a tough time with - change them all. Put a post it with the student's name on it on the table so they know where to go and have a chart in your had so you can show them where to go.
- Meet the class at your door and do not let them in until everyone has arrived and they are all calm. Smile and make sure you say hi to each student before they enter.
- Have a short, detailed drawing activity for them to start the moment they sit down. I usually give them a handout as they enter the class and provide a sharp pencil for them so they can start drawing. The most successful handouts are the how to draw... animal, car, football player... that show several steps. I usually find them on the internet.
- While they are drawing walk around and make several positive comments.
- Introduce the activity of the day before all the students have completed the short drawing activity. Don't wait until they are all done and talking.
- Transitions are usually the most difficult times. Have all your materials organized and ready to go. The less the students move around the class, the better. As you gain better control of the class, you can allow for more flexibility.
- Have one on one conversations with the students in the hall away from the rest of the class.
- Find a strength in each one of your students and tell them when they are doing something well. Don't make stuff up and go over board. Every part of a work of art has a strength. Point to the partial area and tell the student how great it is and why you think so.
- Stay calm.
- Find projects that students will be proud of when they are done. Pick challenging ones, that you break down the steps so that they do not get overwhelmed.
- Get to know the individuals in your class. Ask them questions about their time outside of school.
Frequent Restroom Pass Solution Idea
[Note: an art teacher can substitute something just as bulky as a tuba cases in the following idea. A sculpture is one idea.] "Some students have real issues and need the bathroom frequently, but some take advantage of the bathroom. Being a music teacher I have figured out how to curb the bathroom situation. I USE AN OLD TUBA CASE!!! The case is approximately 20 lbs, bulky, beat up, and I tied a "Bandroom HALL PASS" on the handle so there was NO confusion! Trust me, the bathroom breaks have gone down A LOT!!!! They know that if they ask to use the bathroom that I will direct them to the Tuba case. If they leave it somewhere, hide it, or ditch it completely I give them a detention for "not following classroom rules". I got this idea from an AG teacher from my old high school. He would chain a big tire to a hall pass and let the students leave. I remember NOT wanting to haul that thing around... so when it came to my class, if they REALLY want to go... They can :) (evil clark)." - Brian