Discipline vs. Chaos in the Classroom

Disruptive discipline problems in public school classrooms are increasing across the country.

In St. Louis last week, a high school teacher and a 16-year-old girl created chaos in the classroom. The video showed the student standing up, cursing the teacher, and ready to leave the classroom. Apparently, the incident pushed the teacher over the edge, prompting him to be very abusive to the teenager.

There is no doubt that kids today are acting differently than they did a generation ago. We can easily articulate a number of factors as to why—but none will solve the problem.

In Los Angeles the school board recently passed a resolution amounting to giving students freedom to say anything—including cursing the teacher—and the student cannot be suspended for such disrespect.

There are irresponsible parents and many of these young people are brought up lacking respect for any authority—including teachers. If traditional values of respect were to be imbued in young people, such problems would significantly diminish. But with an increasing segment of society this point is irrelevant because it is not happening.

One result of this trend is teacher burnout. Teachers are simply worn out, which is one reason why they snap. In fact, many teachers are “under siege” in this country and suffering from extreme stress in the classroom. Some are fearful for their safety on a daily basis. And the situation is getting worse.

Additionally, many teachers believe that the administration does not support them–for fear of lawsuits or litigation. To make the situation even worse, the teacher is often called out if the youth does something irresponsible.

Fifty (50) percent of teachers drop out of the profession in five (5) years or sooner. A major reason has to do with student misbehavior and discipline problems. Herein lies a real tragedy when you consider that teachers are the backbone of our future.

Some say that we need principals who are tough and demand that teachers impose discipline in those classrooms. Many adults believe that if students don’t fear suspension or expulsion they’re going to run wild.

Is there a solution to this dilemma? Yes! But it is no longer through coercion or imposed punishment for irresponsible behavior. The solution is to teach responsibility rather than obedience. Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world and a prime reason is that they imbue responsibility from a very young age. Their system promotes a desire to become self-disciplined by empowering their young. When responsibility is promoted, obedience follows as a natural by-product. In contrast, when obedience is the aim, counterwill (the natural human resistance to coercion) is prompted.

Discipline Without Stress is so successful because it is totally noncoercive (but not permissive) and does not rely on parents or other external factors to promote self-discipline and responsible behavior in our nation’s classrooms.