As I approach the 30-year point of my career, I have seen firsthand the emphasis placed on dealing with student behaviour and the plethora of “strategies” used by teachers, generally known as “classroom management”. These strategies are designed to keep students on task, minimize disruptions and maintain general control of the learning environment. Important? Absolutely – but it’s not discipline.
One of the great ironies of the discipline debate is that there are teachers (and parents!) who know, and have always known, how to solve the problem. They do it every day in their classrooms and homes. You would think that we could just learn from them, either by watching how they do it, or having them explain it to us. If only it were that simple.
If you try to learn discipline from the “masters” you will immediately encounter two big problems. First, when discipline is modelled well, it is almost invisible. You can’t see it. It’s not like discipline done poorly where you can easily see all the punishments, detentions, confrontations, students in isolation, and so on. You can also usually hear the raised voices and feel the constant tension. Empty threats and negotiations are ineffective. They leave a person open to manipulation and lead to a never-ending cycle of “we’ve been here before”.
A second problem is that great teachers are, without a doubt, the worst at explaining how they “discipline” their students. It’s so natural and intuitive (i.e., authentic) that they can’t put it into words. And therein lies the magic.
Relationship and connection are the ingredients in this kind of magic.
Talented teachers who relate to kids recognize that a troublesome student can be like a jackrabbit, turtle or rattlesnake. Sometimes they bolt, sometimes they suck into their shells, and other times they coil, rattle, and strike out and it’s easy to make mistakes with the rattlers by poking them with a stick. That never ends well with real rattlers – or student ones.
Mindset and purpose are key. If, as teachers, parents, coaches and mentors, we desire a different outcome during challenging moments or encounters, it’s probably time to try something different. If you do what everyone else has done with troubled and troublesome human beings, you’ll likely end up with the same result.
So do something different! And start with unconditional acceptance of the other person. As experts often tell us, “shame blocks change” and this is certainly true for kids.
Believe it or not. The outcome of our strategies is determined as much by our beliefs about a person’s potential and worth as by the strategies themselves.
Master motivators understand this and focus on creating new pathways to success.