The biggest regret I have as a teacher might not seem that striking at first glance. It is something I’d venture to say that happens fairly regularly at most schools. My hope in writing about my own experience and shift in my perspective, is to help diminish and eventual put a stop to the practice to sending students out of the classroom as a disciplinary measure. This is not to say students have never left my classroom if they are unable to regulate their bodies and/or actions to be safe within the classroom. However, unless a student is unsafe, like really unsafe and not just being disruptive, they are staying in my classroom. Having a calm body space within the classroom really helps with this. We have all had a student become deregulated and struggle to calm down without disrupting the learning environment and having a calm body space within the classroom can help keep students in the class.
Why keep students in the classroom? When I look back at the various reasons I have had students leave the classroom for disciplinary reasons, the common theme from all of my classes is that the student that was asked to leave, needed to connect and be part of the classroom the community the most. Securely attached and connected to the community students are not the students who struggle with their behavior in the classroom. When we send the most fragile student out of the classroom, we send the loud message to the student and the rest of the class: You are not wanted and you do not belong with us.” Now as a teacher, I never specifically thought this when I was in the position to send a student from our classroom. I would never say those words to a student. They are cruel and hurtful. But my actions? That’s exactly what they were saying.
Once I realized this was my actions were communicating, I set out to restructure my classroom discipline procedures. Sound Discipline has played a significant role in how I structure my classroom. If you have not yet taking a Positive Discipline in the Classroom class, I strongly recommend it. It is one of the main reasons I am still teaching.
Other things I have done:
- Realize that there is always a reason and belief behind behavior (a major component of Positive Discipline).
- Build a safe, welcoming calm body space in the classroom
- Teach multiple lessons on how to use a calm body space and revisit as needed
- Hold class meeting about why it is important that all students stay in the classroom and teach into sometimes as a class, we need to ignore unexpected behavior
- Believe that all students deserve to belong and stay in our classroom even if their behavior isn’t conforming to our standard.
- Believe that on any given day, most students are doing the best that they can and sometimes their best is messy and hard.
My encouragement to all educators everywhere: Try to keep every student in your classroom no matter what. The kids that we send out are the ones that need to be there the most.