According to conventional wisdom, it isn’t the problems we face that determine our successes or failures. It is our attitude about the problems that ultimately determines whether our teaching is a success or a failure. Discipline problems are inevitable, but you will benefit from accepting them as challenges and not as stumbling blocks to success.
One of the most important factors in determining the success or failure of the discipline climate is the attitudes the teacher brings to the classroom each day. Those upbeat and confident teachers who come to work convinced that their students can succeed are inspiring to all. Their successful attitudes may be invisible but are vital in the creation of a positive discipline climate.
Being an optimistic person doesn't mean that serious problems don’t exist. A positive attitude just means you are working on a solution in a productive and efficient manner. Problems move you forward when you choose to work to solve them. When you experience student discipline problems, don’t be discouraged; they stimulate you to use your creativity and talents to create a well-disciplined classroom.
Small attitude changes can also create substantial patterns of success. For example, many teachers claim that at least one of their classes is terrible. However, when they stop to look at the situation clearly, they do not have a terrible class; they have many well-behaved students and only a few who are not. With just a small shift in perspective, many teachers find that it is easier to successfully manage a “terrible” class.
To create a successful discipline climate, you must convey to your students that you believe in them and in their ability to succeed academically and behaviorally. Here are several significant actions you can take to communicate your positive attitudes about students’ potential for success:
Have confidence in yourself. You must be confident in your own ability to reach your students. If you are to be successful in overcoming the barriers to a positive discipline climate, you must communicate the belief that your students—with your guidance—can grow and change for the better. Few students will try to succeed without a confident teacher who believes in them.
Show your students that you care about them. Communicate your positive attitudes to your students to let them know you care about their success or failure in your class. To accomplish this, you must develop a personal relationship with each one. You do this when you show you are interested in their opinions and concerned about their welfare.
Plan lessons that are challenging and attainable. Let your students know you have confidence in their power to succeed by designing lessons where success is attainable. When you plan a unit of study, begin with information that students can relate to their previous learning; they immediately will feel confident about what they already know. As the unit progresses, gradually make the work more difficult so that the students who may have been reluctant to try at first are willing to take a chance and do the challenging work necessary for learning.
Conduct yourself professionally. Present yourself to your students and to your colleagues as a professional educator. That means doing all the things good teachers do—maintain order, be very organized, teach innovative lessons and provide your students with the kind of adult role model they need.
Accept responsibility for the discipline climate. The responsibility for a successful discipline climate rests with the classroom teacher. Although too many of us find it easy to blame our students, their families, the school board, or even society for the discipline problems we encounter, the ultimate responsibility for creating a productive classroom is ours.
If we are the ones who are accountable for the discipline climate in our classrooms, then we are the ones who can make positive and effective choices to help our students. When we assume responsibility for the discipline climate, then we also gain the power to make beneficial changes. Students will respond positively to our personalities, our energy, our enthusiasm, our charisma.
Teachers who decide to develop positive relationships with their students, who decide to use alternatives to punishments and threats, who decide to cope with the problems that we all share become successful teachers who are free to make positive changes because they have accepted responsibility for their actions.