Classroom Discipline, Some Teachers Should Learn Lessons Taught in 1947

I can’t remember how I came upon this video on YouTube, but I am glad I did. It is amazing to me that a film on Maintaining Classroom Discipline made in 1947 can still be relevant. While it is true that the solutions in the video simplify things to a degree and that the issues inside and outside of the classroom have changed since then, the core idea of the video is still important and overlooked.

From my limited experience I can say that many teachers (certainly not all) have misguided approaches to running a classroom. The methods used by some teachers at a school I recently substituted at shocked me. They seemed ineffective, callous, and misguided. And my conversations with other teachers lets me know that these kinds of teachers are not only at this one school but many, if not most. However, the individuals shouldn’t be blamed. If it was one person then maybe pointing fingers would help, but it is not one person, it is many. The problem lies in the schools teaching teachers, and the administration in the schools they teach at. They need to teach, guide, and support teachers better.

Most issues in the classroom stem from the teacher, and that’s what this video gets at. Having teachers insult and bully the students leads to attitude and learning problems for students that can be nearly impossible to fix. I have listened as teachers said things to students like, “my dog behaves better than you kids” and “Billy1 use his time well? That’ll be the day, he doesn’t even know what his book looks like.”

Observing some teachers I am reminded of two studies. In the first study children were divided into two groups based superficial things. One group was then told it was smarter and superior to the other. The other group was told they were inferior. The first group excelled in the classroom, while the other group did poorly. I learned about this study in a child psychology class many years ago, it was a prerequisite for teachers, it is obviously an important study to learn from— yet it seems many teachers are unaware of how they are replicating this experiment in their own classrooms. [I learned of this study a long time ago and can’t remember who lead it, but it was fairly famous so if anyone knows of it please let me know.]

The second study is the famous Staford Prison Experiment. Sadly, there are many parallels between guard/prisoner and teacher/student dynamics. Of course, the guard/prisoner relationship is a more dramatic and cruel one, but there are similarities in the means of establishing authority, and the effects of that establishment that should not simply not exist. And yet they do.

This is not to say that every teacher is wrongheaded, mean, or provides a negative impact on students. It is to say that there are far too many teachers that are those things and they need to reevaluate the effects of their actions. But more importantly, the schools that teach teachers and the school that those teachers teach at need to support and educate teachers better. Every teacher has small failures with certain students in every class, but no teacher should fail even one student completely. It can be done.

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