By Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Disorderly conduct in the classroom occurs at almost every age level. It presents itself more frequently in some age groups, but the problem exists at all levels. Although it may express itself in different ways, discipline is a problem no matter which way you look at it. One disruptive student can create enough confusion to destroy the effectiveness of an entire lesson. There is a contagiousness associated with disorderly conduct. Poor discipline in the classroom is discouraging and very demoralizing to the rest of the students.
Disorderly conduct cannot be ignored. However, the teacher should be very careful about using discipline.(1) If you apply pressure in some age groups, the problem compounds itself. The result is frustration for the teacher. This is not to say that discipline should not be used. It simply means that discipline will become a full-time job, if that is all that is done to curb the situation. For example, it has been suggested that sometimes it is best to ignore the disorderly conduct by making an effort to interest the ones engaging in the confusion by involving them in the discussion to a greater extent.(2) Sometimes, however, to continue to ignore the problem, especially with younger ages, only makes the problem worse. The best way to deal with classroom problem cases is to try to understand what was responsible for creating the confusion in the first place. To understand this and take constructive measure to avoid the creation of such confusion, is to solve the problem of discipline. This, of course, is stated more idealistically than actual experience reveals. But it should be given careful consideration.
Causes of Disorder
There are many causes for disorderly conduct in the classroom. There are a number of factors which enter in to create conditions of stress which necessitate classroom discipline. Let us consider a few of these factors.(3)
(1) Let problems often arise as a result of the wrong attitude on the part of the teacher. Where there is nervousness and fretfulness, for example, there is often adverse reaction on the part of the class. Most teachers have experienced times when tensions appeared to get the upper hand and disciplinary problems resulted. Those who teach can improve the order of their classes if they try to maintain a pleasant attitude in class. When a teacher has to maintain order by firmness, it is always good to return again to the pleasant and out-going disposition. Enthusiastic interest and sympathetic understanding on the part of the teacher pave the way for good order in any classroom.
(2) Consider the method of study. It is often true that us begin with the teacher. Disciplinary disorderly conduct is the result of the wrong method of study. Sometimes lesson material is too elementary. At other times it is too advanced. The material must correspond with the age and developmental level of the student if good order is to be maintained. Any material and method of instruction used must be in keeping with the age and needs of those being taught. It is a known fact that there are very few disciplinary problems which arise in those areas which deal with the needs of students. Whatever method of teaching is being utilized by the teacher should be carefully adapted to the material being taught. Every effort should be made to present the material interestingly, regardless of the method being employed.
(3) What about the classroom situation? It is a known fact% that some problems of a disciplinary nature arise because of the room situation in which a class is being conducted. We have come a long way in providing proper classroom environment. However, many classroom situations take place in poorly equipped areas. We must do everything possible to have the right environment for the class. .The learning process can be better carried on in an atmosphere which is suggestive of learning. An interesting learning situation is absolutely mandatory. When students are subjected to disorganized, unpainted, cold, barren, storeroom-type classrooms, you can expect problems. Under these conditions it is no wonder that disciplinary problems arise.
(4) Next, consider the student himself. We will look at his home background first. Disorder in the classroom often results from a student’s home life. Some may have psychological problems of which the teacher is unaware. But the major problem is disrespect for authority-any authority: Because they have not learned to respect the authority of the home, students show disrespect for the authority of the teacher. These students simply have not been taught! This means that as teachers we have to do more than impart knowledge. We have to try to bring about a change in conduct in the one being taught. This involves proper direction and the seeking after the ultimate welfare of the one being taught. If the problem is disrespect for authority, try to understand why such an attitude exists, and try to teach basic principles of respect for authority. Be kind, but be firm.
Under this heading we must also consider the “attention getter.” Sometimes disorderly conduct is nothing more than a student’s way of attracting attention. This is sometimes the case even among adult groups. Have you ever been picked to pieces in an adult class? Have you ever had an adult student make wisecracks to you and about you all through the class period? Those who have had such experiences tell us that it is an exasperating experience. Be patient, my friend. Such was being done only to attract attention. This calls for compassionate understanding on your part. Just remember that some children who are the center of attention in the home find it extremely difficult not to seek such prestige in the classroom. An understanding teacher can wisely direct the class so as to give attention to those who crave it. At the same time, they will conduct an orderly class discussion.
All who are teaching need to do some reflective, constructive thinking in relation to these reasons for, disciplinary problems in the classroom. We should make positive efforts to eliminate these causes for misconduct. This will insure more effectiveness in the teaching effort. The challenges of today are far too vital for teachers to fail in their important work.
Truth Magazine XIX: 17, pp. 268-269
March 6, 1975