How to Approach School Discipline

Whitney Gordon
Whitney Gordon
Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership, Thomas University, Georgia

Cracks in the foundation of school culture can often be traced back to school discipline. Even when a school’s faculty and staff are dedicated to fostering an engaging and safe learning environment, discipline issues will arise. Many widespread discipline practices are older than the educators who enforce them. With this fact in mind, fresh approaches to school discipline are both worthwhile and necessary.

What is Restorative Discipline

Restorative Discipline is a discipline approach that prioritizes inclusion over exclusion. More specifically, restorative discipline holds students accountable for the impact their actions have on individuals and the school by instilling values of community. This approach implements consequences that allow students to assume responsibility while acting to repair any harm and improve behavior going forward. Restorative discipline is contrary to traditional disciplinary policies that use exclusion, such as suspension, as punishment. The idea is that exclusionary punishments cause children to focus on negative consequences, as opposed to understanding why the behavior was bad and what they can do to correct it. Furthermore, restorative discipline fosters a culture of belonging, instilling the idea that all students are a part of and accountable for the school community.

Other Approaches to Better Discipline

Reward Student Behavior Growth

Many schools are adopting the idea of an academic growth mindset, but this idea can apply to behavior as well. When students have ongoing discipline infractions, rewards for improvement can serve as an effective incentive. Institute a behavior contract that outlines what improvement looks like, and what the reward will be. This can be a part of a larger positive reinforcement initiative that also rewards students who consistently have positive behavior.

Enhance Classroom Technology

Technology in the classroom is necessary, as students need technological literacy in order to be competitive in tomorrow’s workforce. Aside from this benefit, integrating technology in the classroom can also have a positive impact on school discipline. Students are more engaged when they can use technology to learn and express creatively. Furthermore, technology can enhance differentiation, making the curriculum more accessible to students. Students are far less likely to misbehave when they are genuinely engaged in learning.

Activate Student Voice

Providing a platform for students to use their voice along with avenues for their voice to affect change can have an astounding impact on school discipline. Schools can do this through a principal’s advisory board, focus groups, or student surveys. Allow students to have a role in setting school expectations. Students are more likely to meet expectations when they have a hand in setting them.

Shifting the narrative about school discipline from a negative aspect of school to an opportunity for learning and growth is key. Students will make mistakes, both intentional and unintentional. Our response should be one that seeks to empower students to grow and reflect. Effective school discipline is the catalyst for positive school culture.

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