As you probably know, I am here in Thailand teaching. I started teaching 3 weeks ago and let me tell you something; the first week was really rough! The last couple weeks have been really great though. Do you want to know what made all the difference? DISCIPLINE. In the past, classroom management and discipline were strengths of mine. Then I came here and promptly forgot to implement the things I should have. Maybe I thought they’d already be trained to behave well (they’re not—kids always test the limits with someone new), maybe I thought Thai kids were different (they’re not), or maybe I was mainly focused on the new curriculum and style of teaching. Whatever it was, I didn’t go in with a strong enough framework and the kids were not behaving well. Lucky for me, I’m a problem solver and come up with a plan when things aren’t working. The other fortunate part is that I already knew what I should have been doing; I just had to do it! So now I’m here to share some discipline basics with you teachers and parents.
- Be clear with what you expect. It’s easy to fall in to the mindset that since kids have been in school for years already they know what to do. That may be true, but they need to be reminded (a lot). Have classroom rules and review them ridiculously often. I feel really strongly that ‘be respectful’ should be a rule for every kid. It covers a LOT in one rule (less rules are easier to remember and review) and is a good trait to have throughout their whole life.
- Have consequences. It’s great to tell them what you expect, but if there aren’t consequences afterwards then none of that matters. If they do what you’ve asked be sure to recognize that. Anything from a quick “Sam, you look fabulous, thanks for following directions so quickly!” to a behavior chart on the wall can be effective. Make sure you have consequences for both positive and negative behavior. I have seen a lot of teachers who have consequences for negative behavior but not for the good. Kids respond really well to positive attention—so well that it can prevent a lot of the negative behaviors.
This is what I had the hardest time with here in Thailand. I set the expectations but didn’t have consequences in place. I just expected them to do what I asked. When they didn’t I said their name and reminded them what they should have been doing. Then if they did it again I did the same thing. They quickly realized that I didn’t have a plan for what to do if they didn’t listen to me. Now that we have a reward system in place they know that if they do great they get to earn a couple stars and if they aren’t they lose the stars one at a time. They are excited about the things they can save up to buy and they are invested in it!
- Follow through. If you say you are going to do something you need to do it! If you tell them they need to stop touching the person next to them or they need to move seats you NEED TO HAVE THEM MOVE SEATS when they do it again. If you don’t they will know that you aren’t telling the truth when you tell them something. They will try to get away with more and more and you will feel frustrated quickly. The really great thing about this is that if you DO have good follow through the kids will a) Realize you are serious and follow directions more quickly b) Trust you because they know that you will be true to your word c) Start to monitor themselves
- Be consistent. I fell like this is so simple and so crucial at the same time! This goes hand in hand with the point above. Make sure that the rules are the same for every student and you are being fair. Be consistent by responding the same for each student and the same from day to day.
Guess what. Kids are the same all over the world! My classes still have students who have a hard time focusing, a couple who aren’t real invested in their education, a class clown, someone who thinks they’re smarter than everyone else, a few that are so excited to be there and are always ready, one that can’t sit in a chair for a chunk of time, a couple who can’t seem to control their mouths. And just like everywhere else in the world they are all capable, crave boundaries and consistency, and want to have fun and be loved. Now that I have implemented the discipline basics things are going fantastically! I feel like this has been an experience to help me rediscover things I already knew.
Teachers, is there anything I forgot that you have found to be helpful? Also, if you want to read about my adventures over in Thailand feel free to head over and take a look!