Discipline, Part Two

I am looking forward to learning more about classroom discipline. It seems like an essential part of maintaining an optimal learning environment. It also seems like a far more subtle art than it sometimes appears to be. 

So far, I have seen two systems in action. One, in kindergarten, involved turning the Childrens’ behavior cards from green to yellow to orange to red over successive behavior violations. The second, in 1st grade, involves a lot of positive reinforcement for positive behavior and occasional expressions of disappointment and disapproval for disruptive behaviors.

There are clear developmental differences between first graders and kindergartners. Also, both teachers are caring and experienced, suggesting that they have wisely chosen their discipline strategies. It may well be, most likely is, that different developmental stages require very different tactics.

The card system probably succeeded in damping down unwanted behavior. However, in functioned it more like speeding tickets in effectiveness. This is to say, it restrained behavior but didn’t intervene much in the desire to repeat the behavior. The more cognitive positive reinforcement strategy probably effects the child’s core behavior more profoundly. It does, however, lack the crispness of a good stiff threat.

I have also noticed in both systems that some children on some days seem bent on maximizing their punishment. I don’t mean that they have particularly unruly days. I mean there is a clear sense that they’re pursuing some self-destructive agenda by deliberately racking up the violations. I’m sure it’s some psychological tick I haven’t yet read about, but it’s there from time to time and unpleasant to watch. The rules are there to set boundaries on behavior, not to become the rocks the children break themselves upon.

One final note related to my prior post on gender, the vast, overwhelming majority of infractions belong to boys. Probably eight of ten girls in kindergarten never once got on yellow. Two or three of the boys probably never had a day where they didn’t get to yellow and only getting to yellow was a very good day indeed for them.

One comment on “Discipline, Part Two

  1. I had to comment, as I recently wrote about a system that seems to combine both of these techniques, both extinguishing negative behavior and rewarding the positive, replacement behaviors. Here’s a link, in case you’re interested:
    I teach in an alternative placement for kids with behavior challenges….and we only have one girl! Identification seems to go right along with what you’re saying.

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