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Day One Discipline


Disciplines > Teaching > Classroom management > Day One Discipline


There's a saying that applies well to teaching: as you start, so you will continue.

If you go in at the start of the year all friendly and do nothing about their cute little foibles, such as chatting and walking around when they should be listening to you, then before long classroom discipline will completely disappear, and you may be reduced to futile shouting. Even outbursts of anger will have little effect. You will have 'lost' the class and will be doomed to a year of hell.

It's a lesson new teachers often learn the hard way. Even older teachers can trip here too, perhaps being too optimistic that a class seems 'nice'. The basic rule is that it is easier to relax discipline once you are established than it is to increase it when things get difficult.

Whilst this is particularly true for younger children and teenagers, it is also true in higher education and with adult classes. Whilst the methods of establishing discipline may change, you will still need to draw a line in the sand and respond clearly when people cross it.

Typically, for the first lesson or so things will go quietly as they size you up. One student will try something, perhaps arriving a bit late or making an offhand comment, whilst the others watch with interest. This is the point of action for you, and where you must be very firm and clear. Stay cool while responding assertively. Make it very clear that you do not accept poor behavior under any circumstances. If anything, make early punishment harsher than your normal level, while being careful not to over-do it and always keeping additional sanctions in reserve in case you need to escalate further.

Be prepared to take things as far as you need, to the head teacher and parents if necessary. Remember that in a court of law, failure to comply with a court order is far more serious than many original offences. The same principle applies in class, where a refusal to comply with a reasonable requirement from a teacher is far worse than a lesser initial offense such as talking.

See also

The foundation of discipline

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