Posted by: emilyrfarrell | February 18, 2012

Philosophy of Discipline

Philosophy of Discipline

            Growing up as the oldest of five children, I was never a stranger to discipline. Being a talkative child did not help me much when it came time for school either. For a long time, I thought I knew how to handle children and adolescents when it came to a classroom teacher. I am a loud person with a good sense of humor, I was sure that I would be able to stand in front of a room full of students and handle myself without any difficulty. Then I began student teaching in Farrell Area School District. Farrell is a relatively diverse school in a town that has recently seen its share of economic difficulty, with 100% of students on free lunch and breakfast. The students of Farrell, while definitely outgoing and energetic, are not the most well behaved student’s I have ever encountered. For the first time in my life, I was placed in a room full of students who did not want to be there and expected me to just roll over and let them do whatever they want. It did not help the previous choir director had just retired and the students were not used to her style of teaching.

            There is no greater wakeup call than realizing that you are completely out of your element, but I have learned, and am still learning, very important lessons from my students at Farrell Area School District. The most important of those lessons is that it is all about respect. Whether or not students like you has to be a second thought. This was a difficult lesson to learn. In a particularly horrible choir rehearsal, I was trying to get through a piece that none of the student’s enjoyed, when several students began loudly voicing their opinion. I eventually got them to move on, but I still heard some of them angrily muttering their dislike for the piece, and sadly me. At first I took it very personally, and felt like a failure as a teacher. With the help of some friends and colleagues, I saw that being liked was not the most important thing in the world. What is important is proving to students that you deserve their respect. The way you do this varies from person to person, and from school to school, but it needs to be done. In the words of Eldridge Cleaver, ‟ Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due.”

            Another lesson I have learned from student teaching is that the best way to prove that you are serious about something is not always yelling. What it comes down to is knowing your students. While some students might respond to yelling, a lot of students will shut down and continue to create more problems in the future. On the other hand, standing there and expecting students to notice that you are waiting for them to get quiet. As a teacher, I believe it is my job to find the right balance between yelling and silence that will get my student’s to realize that I mean business. The advice that my co-op gave me when I was trying to figure this out is that sometimes you just have to move on when you’re lesson and start writing down names. I will never again underestimate the power of keeping a student after class. I know I do not have all the answers but I do know that it takes a lot of time. Another important factor is keeping a positive attitude, not only about yourself but about your students. If you are sure that your students will rise to the occasion and convey that clearly to them, they usually will. Even the lowest achieving student in school needs someone who will find something positive that they are doing and praise them for it. This is especially important in schools like Farrell, where often students may not have that kind of support at home.

            Aristotle once said that ‟We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” He has said, more eloquently than I ever could, exactly what I think discipline should be; a consistent reminder about how a person should act in a classroom, and in life. One of the most important lessons that I learned from my co-ops, and from my students, is that what students need is consistency. The students I encountered while student teaching may have given me a hard time, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I know now never to demand or expect the respect of your students, but work to earn it. Students may not always like you, but they will respect you if you are fair, consistent, and high expectations. I believe that with a positive attitude, you can achieve just about anything and I will try to teach that to my students every day for the rest of my teaching career.

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