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You can't control them until you start teaching them.


Teaching well requires a multitude of habits and moves that can be constructed only by deliberate practice over years. Therefore, beginning teachers will go through a long, awkward period in which they are not yet teaching as well as they will later, and so are having more trouble in their classes than they will have later. That is normal.

Beginning teachers spend much time and energy trying to construct a management system that both suits them and serves their students. Of course, suiting the teacher and serving the students are quite different things, and one of them is far more important than the other. This is just one of many ways in which learning to teach means learning to regard what serves our students as being suitable for us.

"You can't teach them until you control them." Like many old chestnuts, this one makes just as much sense when you reverse it: "You can't control them until you teach them." To test the latter claim, just imagine trying to make a class of students sit quietly with their hands folded--when no teaching or learning are being attempted. Even if your only goal in life is to contrive the illusion that you are in control, you will be smart to consider management and discipline and teaching subject matter all as necessary elements of a single performance. The requirement is not order alone, but humane and productive order.

For the purpose of achieving humane and productive order, approaches to management and discipline range from "narrow" to "broad." Narrow approaches aim only or mostly to stop inattention and misbehavior, or to forestall them by making and enforcing rules against them. Broad approaches aim to organize classes as safe, humane, and productive places for learning. The narrow approaches come nearest to making sense when they are considered in the context of the broader ones, so they are organized from broad to narrow in the table below.

Although some schools and districts mandate an approach to classroom management and discipline, most teachers are free to construct a system. The table below sketches several approaches to management and/or discipline, and it lists resources you can use to learn more about them.

Some approaches to management and/or discipline
Often called Theory Books Websites
"Classroom management" (the big enchilada) Emphasizes a combination of arranging the physical environment, establishing and teaching rules and routines, building relationships with and among students, organizing work intelligently, motivating students to learn, and responding to inattention & misbehavior in ways that serve the strategy as a whole. Elementary classroom management: Lessons from research and practice; Secondary classroom management: Lessons from research and practice, both by Carol Weinstein and Andrew Mignano.

Elementary: Barnes&Noble; Amazon.com

Secondary: McGraw-Hill; Amazon.com

"Harry Wong" Emphasizes the teaching of procedures and the organization of the classroom and school day. The first days of school, by Harry and Rosemary Wong. Harry Wong summary

"Love and Logic"



"Love and Logic is an approach to working with students that puts teachers in control, teaches kids to think for themselves, raises the level of student responsibility, prepares kids to function effectively in a society filled with temptations, decisions and consequences." Teaching with love and logic: Taking control of the classroom, by Jim Fay and David Funk (1995). Golden, CO: Love and Logic Press. Love and Logic.com
"Child-centered discipline" Emphasizes communication among teachers, parents and students, often using "I statements." Teachers work to uncover the student emotions that lead to misbehavior.

T.E.T.: Teacher effectiveness training, teaching children self-discipline, by Thomas Gordon.

I’m okay, you’re okay, by Thomas Harris.

Transactional Analysis

"Cooperative discipline" Relies on logical and natural consequences for student misbehavior. Encourages teachers to recognize reasons for student misbehavior and to respond accordingly.

A teacher’s guide to cooperative discipline: How to manage your classroom and promote self-esteem, by Linda Albert.

Positive discipline in the classroom, by Jane Nelson, Lynn Lott and H. Stephen Glenn.

Positive Discipline

Cooperative Discipline

"Assertive discipline"

Emphasizes explicit rules, consequences and rewards and consistent teacher responses to similar student behaviors.

Succeeding with difficult students: New strategies for reaching your most challenging students, by Lee and Marlene Canter

Assertive discipline: Positive behavior management for today's classroom, by Lee and Marlene Canter.

Assertive Discipline

The Canter and Jones Models

"Restorative justice" In a restorative school everyone, young and old, is accountable for the impact of their actions on others. Accountability means being able to take responsibility for those actions, being prepared to apologise and make amends and learning from the situation to do things differently another time. The emphasis is on repairing the harm done and re-building relationships so that effective teaching and learning can continue.   SaferSanerSchools Website