Fair and firm discipline isn't a catch phrase type of discipline. It is simply you, the adult, creating a discipline plan for students that is fair to both of you and sticking to it using a firm and personable approach. Here are three reasons why you should:

· Fair and firm discipline teaches respect for adults and those in authority. Students who do not have any, little or the wrong type of discipline in the home often are those who get into trouble at school and/or with the law.

· Fair and firm discipline allows students to feel safe. When you set clear expectations and limits, you are showing students the safe route through the maze of dos and don'ts in their daily lives. You are giving them a map to follow where they get to make choices for themselves. This is a very safe feeling and helps with building confidence. Older students will eventually learn how to set their own expectations and limits when you follow this type of discipline.

· Fair and firm discipline allows students to take responsibility for their actions. When students understand the rules and the consequences and know that they are expected to follow the rules then they are ready and often willing to take consequences – whether they are positive or negative. This means you will have to remember to praise good behavior as well as stand by the consequences you have set for poor behavior.


The Problem

Asking questions as a discipline technique is a way of opening yourself to manipulation and sounding weak. Consider the following scenario:

'Jane, why are you talking? Didn't I tell you to do your work? Sound familiar?

Look at that question again. When teachers say something like that, the words get filtered in the student's head and sound something like this:

'Hi Jane! I'm going to ask you a rhetorical question right now so that you can twist it and manipulate me and otherwise take control of this whole situation here, and maybe even get the class to laugh at my expense if you have a zinger prepared!'

Think about it-what kind of answer are you expecting?:

'Well, Mr. Smith, I am talking because I rudely chose to ignore your direction and actually would prefer knowing my classmates' after school plans than attempting the less immediately gratifying task you have set before me, and yes, you told me to do my work. Any other questions, Teach?'

This would approach the truth of the situation, but it's not the answer you are going to get. And it wouldn't do any good anyway.

Possible Solution

Make statements and give directions instead. This is the strong way to speak and leaves no room for argument or manipulation. So, for the above example:

'Jane, there is no talking in my class. Be quiet and focus on your work immediately.'

If you are the studious type, you can write down five questions like these you typically ask students, and rewrite them as statements. Practice them in the mirror and listen to how much more you sound like an authority. When you catch yourself in class asking questions to discipline, change them to statements. Note the second example:

Wrong: 'How can you learn this material if you are not focusing?'

Right: 'This is an academic classroom and you must focus on the material in order to be successful. Get on task immediately.'

So here you are not requiring an answer, and this will keep you from unwanted, useless discussions.

Set yourself up for success!

Although this is not always the end of the problem, it is one more way you are going to achieve the classroom atmosphere you want and deserve.

Craig Seganti "Classroom Discipline 101"