The First Year Teaching: The desist approach to classroom discipline
By Matthew Lynch
As you look for your own way of operating your classroom efficiently, there are several styles of teaching discipline to consider. One that is often used because of its easy-to-implement practices is the “desist” approach. Unlike the self-discipline approach where students are responsible, the desist approach places teachers as the responsible ones. This approach can be viewed as a power system, as teachers have the power and they set the specific rules to give students discipline and correct students’ behaviors. Here is how this method is put into practice:
This approach bases itself on the fact that teachers have the power to ask and require specific actions from students. However, this discipline still has students’ best interest in mind. Canter and Canter, in their historical study conducted in 1992, found that teachers who use this discipline are actually calm when it comes to the rules and limits. This discipline makes teachers assert clear rules. It gives students the clear idea that misbehavior has consequences and if students want positive consequences, they know how to achieve them.
This approach centers around four types of punishment/reinforcement. These are:
- Positive Reinforcement: Giving extra credit for a question answered with much thought
- Positive Punishment: A meeting with a Principal
- Negative Reinforcement: Removal of an activity that the student does not enjoy
- Negative Punishment: Decrease in free time
This approach finds the positive reinforcement to be the most effective while punishments are comparatively ineffective. It goes without saying then that teachers are expected to encourage students’ good behaviors instead of criticizing the misbehavior.
In both cases, a lot of the responsibility of the enforcement of acceptable classroom behavior falls on the shoulder of the teacher but for individuals who want to have a tighter control over how things operate, this may be favorable. In classrooms with younger students, this may also be something that is desired as students, particularly in grades K-3, have not yet had enough classroom exposure to really understand how to implement self-discipline models.
In most cases, teachers will subscribe to more than one type of classroom management when it comes to discipline and order. If you are a teacher with different students depending on the period of the day, you may find that one style is preferable over another based on the personalities in your specific class. Conversely, you may go into the process with one style in mind and then find that in practice, something else works better. The main thing is that you at least consider how you want your classroom to operate before going into the process blindly, hoping for the best.
It may be hard to believe, but at some point you won’t need to put so much upfront effort into determining the kind of teacher you want to be — it will just come naturally. In the mean time, consider the best ways to function in your classroom to benefit your students and make your early teaching years more manageable for you.