A listener who is an administrator on the middle and high school level who has the opportunity to become a Vice Principal wrote to Will and Jen:
“As a classroom teacher this year has been quite challenging because there are some students who resist learning and either not coming to class prepared or asking to go to the bathroom repeatedly during the lesson, distracting or socializing during instruction, regardless how many times I go over expectations with them. What are some policies I can incorporate or I can tell teachers to incorporate as a future Vice Principal so that teachers would get support with similar types of issues?
There’s two questions being asked by this listener:
Question 1: What do you do about student discipline?
As a teacher managing a classroom, acknowledge that with every student comes a new adventure and a new journey, so there is no one size fits all when it comes to student discipline. However there are practices that will help provide consistency, predictability, and help provide students with an environment that they feel is stable and safe for learning. Give yourself the grace to realize that even when you’re doing things right, there will still be challenges.
As an administrator, it is important to understand trauma informed discipline (see resources below for a great book about this subject). Having a lack of understanding of what’s going on behind a student’s behavior can sometimes make it difficult to know what to do about the behavior. As a school, ask yourself about discipline, “What are our common definitions and what do we mean by them?”
Question 2: What should you say in an interview?
There is no one right answer to this question in an interview setting. The answer is to be truthful and authentic. What do you believe? How can you be confident and vulnerable? Being yourself and answering the question truthfully are what will show interviewers that you are the right candidate for the position.
Even though there is not going to be a right answer, there are principles that can be practiced that can create a better environment for student learning. As an interviewee, it can be helpful to focus on those principles instead of trying to find the right answer to the discipline question.
Resources for classroom management and student behavior:
Harry Wong, author of The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, reminds us of seven questions every student asks about his or her teachers:
1. Am I in the right room?
2. Where am I supposed to sit?
3. Who is the teacher as a person?
4. Will the teacher treat me as a human being?
5. What are the rules in this classroom?
6. What will I be doing this year?
7. How will I be graded?
Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma by Dr. Barb Sorrels
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