Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 9, 2009

Classroom Discipline 2 – Smile


I credit Junior Hockey as being the source of my second key strategy for classroom discipline. I didn’t play much hockey as a kid – played when I was 6 and 7-years-old then moved to a farm – so I was an observer not a participant. It seemed to me that whenever a fight was about to take place, the opposing players would perform a ritual: square off, assume the ‘dukes up’ stance, position themselves and often circle around for a bit – and then the unusual part – smile.

Frequently, from what followed, one of the combatants was outclassed. As the saying goes, one was the windshield; the other was the bug. Moments earlier, both had been smiling. Smiling.

It occurred to me that the message both were sending was this: You have done something wrong. I cannot let it go. You have provided me a chance to ‘make the crooked straight’ and I am going to enjoy the opportunity. The smiles, one was likely a confident smile and one was just as likely a ‘trying to look confident’ one, were silent messages that everything was still under control.

I took the ‘smile when things are going wrong’ tactic to the classroom. Added to the look of pleasure (and sometimes more ‘amusement’ or ‘oh shucks, here we go again’) was an even more elementary idea. From my days teaching Kindergarten to Grade 5, I often overheard the statement, “You are not the boss of me!” So true. As an adult and ‘the teacher’, it just didn’t seem right to have some kid being my boss, dictating how life in our world should go.

The third, and probably the last major bit of reasoning behind my ‘smile’ strategy was the thought that most of the problems I was dealing with in class were not problems per se but more irritants, nuisances. No one was going to die. I had to get the size of the problem into perspective. It’s true that sometimes the irritants were so blatant that they brought my blood to a boil, but I had to remind myself to look at the bigger picture.

As often as I could  when things went off the rails (and it wasn’t always), I would stop, make eye contact with the culprit(s), and smile. The results were amazing.

More on discipline later – and more on my spin about the difference between ‘classroom discipline’ and ‘classroom management.’

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