Student Discipline and the New Teacher

One of the most challenging parts of the job for a new teacher is dealing with student behavior problems. New teachers should arm themselves with the knowledge of classroom management and behavior strategies to help them deal with student discipline.

Everybody has certain biases and ways of looking at the world. Our world view is colored by our family, our childhood and our life experiences. Teachers are no exception. A teacher who comes from a background where education was emphasized may not be comfortable in a classroom in an alternative school where the students were never taught the importance of education. A teacher who was taught to respect their parents and all adults would be thrown for a loop if an unruly student becomes unabashedly disrespectful. A student may give a new teacher an especially hard time in order to “test” or “break” the teacher.

Student discipline does not have to be a headache for you if you can keep a few strategies in mind. Though it is a good to want to connect with your students, you have to be the teacher and adult first. Many new teachers make the mistake of trying to befriend and connect with the students at the beginning of the year because they believe this will make for a trouble free classroom. In reality, the complete opposite is true. If a new teacher tries to be “friends” with the students at the beginning of the school year, you have actually discredited yourself as an adult and leader in the classroom. If you begin the school year as the “cool” or laid back teacher, the students will not take you seriously and when a student becomes unruly and you try to discipline that student, that student will not listen to you because you have presented yourself as a buddy rather than a serious authority figure that commands their respect.

One of the main objectives someone is looking for when becoming an educator is to teach for knowledge and to build relationships with their students. No one, especially a new teacher wants to be seen as the “bad guy”. You must realize that classroom management and discipline come first and relationship and connection comes later. Even if it is against your nature, as a new teacher it is important to be strict, assertive and authoritative. The truth is students expect adults and teachers to have rules, guidelines, expectations, and limits. Of course it is just in the nature of young people to try and test those limits but that doesn’t mean that they don’t expect them to be there.

The primary key to dealing with student behavior is not just what the school or even the district wants. It is knowing how you want your classroom to run and having certain realistic expectations of how you want your students to behave. Again, if you would like a relaxed atmosphere in your classroom, DO NOT try to establish this in the beginning of the school year. It will only lead to problems. It is also not a smart idea to envision a classroom where everyone is silent, facing forward with all eyes on you. This simply doesn’t happen. Realistic expectations are really the key.

The main thing to remember is that when you go into the classroom; know that there will inevitably be behavior problems, just in varying degrees. You may have to deal with a student that is habitually late to class, an excessive talker, or a very disruptive student with the attitude “You can’t teach me nothing”. Realize and accept this ahead of time.

Also realize that you are the adult and the leader in the classroom. Trust that you know what you are doing. You wouldn’t have been hired otherwise.