Best of Freshman Writing

Volume 17

Table of Contents

Christopher Young 

Bradley Neighoff 

Chelsea Hafner 

Chelsea Hartzman 

Madelyn Koch 

Kristy Offenback 

Cody Bressler 

Emily Brown 

Ebony Ford 

Steve Hamel 

Daniel MacIntosh 

Chris Watts 

Matt McClure 

Kyley Mickle 

Shatisha Diggs 

Taylor Bury 

Joanna Evans 

Alyssa Gradus 

Cindy MacIntosh 

Abbey Miklitsch

Lisa Morrison

Hailey Schuchart

John Ritenour

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Copyright © 2012 The Pennsylvania State University

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Last updateded July 2, 2012.

Hailey Schuchart
English 15
PSU – York

School Discipline:
Effective Ways to Discipline Children

Over the years, techniques for school discipline have immensely changed. There was a time when teachers were allowed to hit children with rulers if they misbehaved. In today’s society, if a child would come home and tell their parents that a teacher hit her or him for misbehaving, lawsuits would probably follow. To make sure that this does not happen, other disciplinary techniques have evolved: detention, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and expulsion. In 2002, U.S. public schools have documented 3.1 million suspensions and 89,131 students were expelled; these numbers increase every year (Dupper 3). If this is considered to be an effective way to discipline children, then why are these numbers not decreasing every year? Behavior control punishments like suspension and expulsion are not effective; therefore, teachers should use positive discipline methods.
    Some reasons why out-of-school suspension and expulsion are not effective is simply because students do not care. Some students cannot stand to be in school. The punishment of suspension and expulsion “may have the unintended consequences of promoting these students’ use of inappropriate behaviors to provoke disciplinary actions that will allow them to stay out of school” (Cameron and Sheppard l7). They take out-of-school suspension and expulsion as “an officially sanctioned school holiday” and can be seen as a reward rather than a punishment (Dupper 4). According to research, school discipline can play a key role in character development (Rosen 3), and some researchers have reported that students who have been suspended from school often return with the same or worse behaviors (Dupper 4); therefore, suspension is not helping the students develop a good character but rather developing a repetitive character.
    Research indicates that behavior problems can be linked to psychological problems and disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (Cameron and Sheppard 15); therefore, the punishment of suspension and expulsion is a “short-term fix to what often is a chronic and long-term problem” (Osher, Bear, Sprague, and Doyle 48). They can also put a burden on the child as well: “long-term suspension and expulsion damages the student’s good name and reputation, their ability to gain employment, and their opportunity to further their education” (Rosen 57).
    Positive is considered “fashionable” in terms of disciplinary methods (Bear, “Positive Psychology” 8). When positive discipline rather than negative discipline is in effect, it “helps create an environment that empowers students to be respectful, resourceful, cooperative, and capable” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 43). Creating a positive disciplined classroom can be challenging, but, once all the puzzle pieces are put together, students will feel comfortable, which results in little to no misbehavior (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 2).
    Developing an atmosphere of caring can help formulate a positive classroom (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 23). Being able to connect and communicate with students shows them that teachers care. When students feel this way, they want to cooperate and not misbehave (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 28). When it comes to communication, “many teachers are completely unaware of their tone of voice and how it can affect students” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 33). It has been reported “that negative teacher attitudes towards students generally emerge within the first two weeks of classes and that these attitudes tend to remain stable” (Dupper 26). Classroom behavior problems can result from the teacher’s tone with the students and when teachers “unknowingly dominate classroom communication” (Dupper 26). A way to make discipline known within a classroom is to create a set of rules but let the students have a say in them. There is a case study that researched South African children and their involvement in the process of school discipline. The students made it clear that the teachers created the rules and left no room for the students to voice their opinions. This study indicates that thirty-five of the forty participants in this particular study “emphasized that learners and teachers should cooperate and come to an agreement on school discipline” (Geldenhuys and Doubell 329). With these dramatic results, it was also documented that “87.5% of the participants agreed/strongly agreed that they would adhere to the rules if they had part in the construction of these rules” (Geldenhuys and Doubell 329).
    Students like respect, and if teachers give respect then respect will be returned. A note was put on a door of a high school classroom in North Carolina: “Tardies, please come into the room quietly, find a seat, look for your directions on the board. Learning begins as soon as the tardy bell rings” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 39). Students “need to learn how to decide between right and wrong and why behaviors are right or wrong” (Bear, “Positive Psychology” 8), which is what the teacher in North Carolina has done. Instead of humiliating students for being late, the teacher allows them to take on the responsibility of catching up for what they missed instead of embarrassing those late students and disrupting the on-time students (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 39).
    Misbehavior from students can also be a result of not participating or being inactive in class (Osher, Bear, Sprague, and Doyle 49). When teachers “gain and maintain students’ cooperation,” it creates a “productive classroom environment” that keeps the students engaged in the material that needs to be taught (Osher, Bear, Sprague, and Doyle 49; Stronge 40). When teachers are able to maintain the student’s attention, it creates little time for the students to misbehave.
    An effective way for the students to connect with each other is through class meetings. Many teachers and administrators do not realize that class meetings can address and solve problems that the teacher sees and what the students see. Class meetings help students connect with each other by solving issues that “teach them to think for themselves, and eliminate most problems with students who act out” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 4). When the students form a connection with one another, it creates a classroom of students who have respect for each other and the teacher. Positive discipline classroom meetings are based on student cooperation and give students the opportunity to learn conflict-resolution skills, which they will use in everyday life (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 46). Students have the say on what to talk about in the class meeting and the teacher is there to help guide the students in solving any issue that they may have: “when students and teachers collaborate, they learn to appreciate each other, to understand and respect differences, and to develop social interest” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 46-47). Planning classroom meetings is not easy. It takes considerable time and patience to direct students into that solving mode, but once the students accomplish this, the students will have a connection with each other and the teacher (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 59). When this connection is formed, it creates “a classroom climate [that] is more positive [because the] teacher makes the effort to connect with [the] students” (Dupper 27).
    Students need to always feel like they belong. When students feel they do not belong, they “adopt survival (defensive) behavior” (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 83). Survival behavior, which is known as misbehavior, is based on the student trying to find ways to feel like they belong (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 84). “A misbehaving student is a discouraged student,” which results in students choosing one of the four mistaken goals: undue attention, misguided power, revenge, and assumed inadequacy (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 84).
    The mistaken goals are behaviors that students perform that usually result in teachers correcting the students in a negative way. The four mistaken goals are different but basically have all the same motives behind them. When a student engages in any of these four mistaken goals, it means that a student wants to be noticed, wants to have some sort of power, wants revenge, or wants to give up and be left alone (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 84). Students feel that the only way the teacher will notice them is when they are misbehaving, which simply should not be. Instead of a teacher lashing out at the student in a negative way, the teacher can respond to the student in a positive way, which allows the student to have power under the teacher’s control. The best way to positively correct the students that engage in these mistaken goals is to make a connection with them by talking with them privately and letting them know that the teacher cares. This helps students gain confidence and have respect for their teachers and classmates (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 84).
    Punishment can be disrespectful and discouraging (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 117), which is why teachers should “seek rewards [and] avoid punishments” (Bear, “Positive Psychology” 9). Punishments can make children feel worse and is almost saying that it is more important to make children pay for what they have done rather than learning from what they have done (Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn 117). Privileges are more effective than punishments because they help children recognize what behavior is expected and if they engage in this behavior, then they will be “rewarded” for it. Privileges such as extra recess time or watching a video can help the students realize that if they behave and cooperate, they will be rewarded with something they really enjoy (Bear, School Discipline 101). In addition to rewards and privileges, the way the teachers talk to the students can give them a sense of praise. By saying “thank you” to the students for doing something and giving them an explanation as to how it helped, the students can be made to feel appreciated: “Thank you for collecting the books. That saved me ten minutes” (Moorman and Weber 86). Expressing these kinds of statements comes across to the student as them being helpful and realizing that they can make a difference (Moorman and Weber 86). “The act of praising is a skill” and should be used more often than not (Moorman and Weber 86).
    Discipline is one aspect of school that has many different effects on students. Discipline in schools is something that both the teachers and students should be a part of. Research has been done that suggests students are more likely to obey the rules when they have a say in them (Geldenhuys and Doubell 329). With the discipline in schools being a teacher-student consensus, the atmosphere of school is more positive and has low rates of suspension and expulsion. Overall, suspension and expulsion are disciplinary methods that simply do not work and can easily be avoided with other disciplinary actions that have a positive effect on the students and the school’s atmosphere.

Works Cited

Bear, George. “Positive Psychology and School Discipline: Positive Is Not Simply the
      Opposite of Punitive.” National Association of School Psychologists 39.5 (2011):
      8-9. Academic Search Complete. Web. 31 Oct. 2011.

---. School Discipline and Self-Discipline: A Practical Guide to Promoting Prosocial
      Student Behavior
. New York: The Guilford Press, 2010. Print.

Cameron, Mark and Sandra M. Sheppard. “School Discipline and Social Work Practice:
      Application of Research and Theory to Intervention.” Children & Schools 28.1(2006):
      15-17. Academic Search Complete. Web. 31 Oct. 2011.

Dupper, David R. A New Model of School Discipline: Engaging Students and
      Preventing Behavior Problems
. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2010.

Geldenhuys, Johanna and Hannelie Doubell. “South African Children’s Voice on School
      Discipline: A Case Study.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 19 (2011):329.
      Academic Search Complete. Web. 3l Oct. 2011.

Moorman, Chick and Nancy Weber. Teacher Talk: What It Really Means. 1st ed. Miami:
      Institute for Personal Power, 1989. Print.

Nelsen, Jane, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn. Positive Discipline in the Classroom:
      Developing Mutual Respect, Cooperation, and Responsibility in Your Classroom
      3rd Rev. ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000. Print.

Osher, David, George G. Bear, Jeffrey R. Sprague, and Walter Doyle. “How Can We
      Improve School Discipline?” Educational Research 39.1 (2010): 48-49. Academic
      Research Complete
. Web. 31 Oct. 2011.

Rosen, Louis. School Discipline: Best Practices for Administrators. 2nd ed. California:
      Corwin Press, 2005. Print.

Stronge, James H. Qualities of Effective Teachers. 2nd ed. Virginia: Association for
      Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007. Print.

Hailey Schuchart's essay appears here with her express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without her express written permission.