A Proactive Approach to Discipline

Educators who have succeeded in restorative practices have found that they are more than a substitute for suspension. Restorative practices encourage us to engage with students not only during events but throughout the school day. They are part of the discipline system that brings us back to the root of the word, Latin discipline, which means guidance and knowledge. They borrowed from what we naturally do as teachers – teach.

Therefore, restorative discipline is as proactive and supportive as responsiveness. It’s designed to create conditions where problems are less likely, and when they do, we have the connections and skills needed to manage them and restore communities as needed.

What does it take to take a proactive and supportive approach to discipline and solve problems at school? There are several important steps.

Steps to Active Discipline

1. Get to know your students:

For both teachers and students to be their best selves, we need to understand each other. Teaching and learning happen through relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more we know about our students, and the more knowledge and goodwill we can build up when things get tough.

2. Share and teach classroom expectations:

We want to make sure our students know and understand our expectations for the classroom. Discussing them early can encourage acceptance and allow us to better assess what skills and supports students need to meet our expectations.

3. To jointly develop teaching norms:

It is empowering to work together to decide what standards you and your students need to be your best. Once you have a manageable list, spend some time exploring it. For example, how does respect look, feel, and sound? Which norms are easy to follow and which are harder to follow? Why? Spend some time addressing the harder norms and think together about how to support each other when challenges arise.

Steps to Supportive and Responsible Discipline

1. Exemplary, supportive and respectful behavior:

After you have created a list of teaching norms, as an adult, you must take the lead and show students how to follow those norms consistently.

2. Check the norms and expectations in the class:

Make sure to remind yourself of the norm early on. Learning happens over time and most students need reminders. For example, when you’re standing at the door welcoming your students to class, you might urge them to translate any depression you see in the hallway into friendly, supportive language. Remind them of the discussion about respect earlier this year.

3. Redirect student behavior with positive language:

Such guidance can help students get back on track. To students who are out of class: “I want you to skip to page 35, read the first paragraph, and then to the question at the bottom of the page.” To disrespectful students: “You look frustrated. I’d love to sit down with you and work it out. Question. Let me know when you’re ready.”

4. Acknowledging student effort and growth:

It’s important to notice that students are working hard or making progress – that growth is something to celebrate. If students have difficulty concentrating in class, progress from 5 minutes in September to 10 minutes in October is an improvement, although students are encouraged to increase this to 15 minutes in November.

5. Indicates non-verbal support, recognition, or forwarding:

Once you have established a problem-solving relationship with your students, you can use proximity or pre-arranged signals to help students get back on track, or encourage them to say anything without saying a word.

6. Sign up and show support:

Young people in our care often complain about not being seen or heard by adults, especially in middle and high school, which can be lonely and impersonal places. Notice if the student looks troubled. Come back and look at them: “Are you okay?” or “You look depressed – need a few minutes in the hallway to calm yourself down?” This sends a message that you care, that you see the student, and are concerned about his Happiness is interested.

7. Restorative chat:

One-on-one active listening can help you better understand students who are struggling with their behavior. Active listening has the added benefit of helping people calm down, which can encourage them to be more introspective and open to problem-solving.

Imagine a few minutes after the bell rings and a student floods into your classroom, disrupting your classroom. Consider asking if they are okay. Greet them in class and instruct them to sit quietly. If you have a few minutes, pull up a chair. Ask them what happened – why were they late? Express your concern about what happened or this is becoming a habit. Ask students to think about the consequences of being late and address the problem of being on time for class.

The goal of these disciplinary interventions is to teach behavior while we build and nurture relationships with our students and strengthen our entire community. When more serious problems arise or damage is caused, we can use the relationships and skills we have built to solve the problem and repair the damage. At the same time, our work has a positive impact on supporting students’ social and emotional growth and creating a more comfortable and productive classroom environment.

About the article

Educators who have succeeded in restorative practices have found that they are more than a substitute for suspension. Restorative practices encourage us to engage with students not only during events but throughout the school day. In this article, we’ve discussed a proactive approach to discipline.

Jack Marque

Digital Marketer with over 15 years of experience. Certified Digital Marketer and Educator by Google, HubSpot, and many other companies. An ex-employee @uber and @zomato

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