Kids don’t misbehave because they don’t want discipline.
They misbehave because they do.
They crave it. They seek it out. They push and probe and increase their misbehavior in order to find your limits.
Firm boundaries tell them that someone cares. It let’s them know that they’re alive and that they matter. They have worth.
This is why inconsistent teachers and those with ill-defined rules struggle so much.
However, there is a catch.
If the discipline is meted out by an authoritarian, it will be met with private resentment and rebellion—especially among your most difficult students.
So what is authoritarianism? As it relates to teaching, it’s a style of classroom management that is marked by an attitude of power and dominance.
Rules are a form of executive order. They come down via royal decree and are not to be questioned. Just followed without complaint.
Students of today despise the feeling of being forced into something.
But there are scores of teachers who confuse the call for good classroom management with having to put on battle dress and broadsword and control their subjects by iron fist.
It’s a miserable way to teach. It’s stressful and exhausting. It creates a you-against-them relationship with students. It makes the job of teaching a hike up Mount Elbrus.
But how do you avoid it? How do you strictly follow your classroom management plan without appearing like a dictator and sparking a mutiny?
You explain to your students why.
Everything you do, from rules and consequences to policies and routines, must have a compelling reason why you’re doing it.
There must be a clear and describable benefit to your students. If there isn’t, if you can’t explain why they have to raise their hand or stay quiet during independent work, for example, then you shouldn’t do it.
Ever, ever, ever.
Every classroom management policy must have a why that students understand. And you must be ready to explain it to them. “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it.
Your students don’t always have to agree, mind you. They just have to know that there is a reason—and what that reason is—that is best for them.
Knowing your whys also safeguards you from parents and administrators who might question your methods. When you say, “The class rules protect every student’s right to learn and enjoy being in my classroom,” it’s nearly impossible to argue against.
Your whys also cause you to think through what you really want for your classroom. They cause you to take ownership and responsibility to provide the best experience for your students.
They, in turn, will appreciate your openness and willingness to be transparent. It helps build all-important rapport and mutual likability and the desire to behave.
It frees you to enforce your consequences without fear while freeing your students to accept, agree with, and understand that the rules and policies of the class are not for you and your selfish needs or perverse enjoyment.
They’re for them and wholly and completely for their benefit.
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