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“Discipline without Emotion”: One Teacher’s Use of a Simple Reminder

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Some months ago, I received the following note from Tony Signore of Michigan, and it contains a nugget I think we could all use a moment’s reflection on: the value of emotional constancy.

“Discipline without emotion”

Dave, [your article on reminder strategies] made me reflect on how important it is to break down core beliefs. When I was a younger teacher, I used to get upset with students over things like not getting work turned in on time, or at all. Emotionally I had a tendency to let it get the better of me. It usually created a power struggle between myself and the student. One day I decided to write down my goal towards discipline and classroom management, and it was this: “Discipline without emotion.” It was written, and still is, on a small box that holds eraser caps. I see it all the time. It keeps me focused on the type of teacher I strive to be. I wish I could say that since then I have never had a student “push my buttons,” but I always come back to this core belief. There is power in working through noise and putting core beliefs in writing.

Key points

First, I appreciate that Tony took the time to reflect on how he was managing his classroom, and he faced the gap between his goals for classroom management and his reality. Without this kind of internal work, we become burnt-out externalists — nobody gets into teaching hoping for that outcome.

Second, Tony hits on what is probably my favorite idea from Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion: emotional constancy, or “managing your emotions to consistently promote student learning and achievement” [1]. We need our students to respect us if our words are to have maximum access to their hearts, and I think one of the key moments in every school year that I earn the respect of my students is when I maintain emotional constancy in the face of behaviors or situations that frustrate me. When the class doesn’t turn in homework and we analyze the problem calmly and rationally, that’s emotional constancy. When a student with low social intelligence does something that annoys most of the class (again) and I calmly teach the student a more socially intelligent way to behave, that’s emotional constancy. When a student gets a wrong answer and we neither chasten nor excuse it, or when a student gets a right answer and we neither flatter or fuss about it, that’s emotional constancy.

Third, I want to reiterate the key work Tony did: he compared the type of teacher he strives to be and the type of teaching happening in his classroom, and he came up with a strategy (very high-tech — the top of a small box for eraser caps) for reminding himself of his Everest. The result has been a net gain for Tony and for Tony’s students.

Footnote:

  1. Lemov, Teach Like a Champion, p. 439. Lemov’s whole section on the topic is worth the book. Ask your administrator to buy it for you before buying it yourself.

Thank you to Tony Signore for sharing his reminder strategy with myself and the readers of this blog.

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4 Responses to “Discipline without Emotion”: One Teacher’s Use of a Simple Reminder

  1. Sue Schluentz-Elenbaas July 2, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Love this reminder. Reminds me so much of the three steps of cognitive coaching, where reflection is key. In addition, being less emotional as a response is important by instead using pausing, and paraphrasing, questioning, instead of criticism and praise. Thanks, Dave!

    • davestuartjr July 12, 2016 at 9:04 am #

      Sue, thank you 🙂 I hope you are having a great summer.

  2. Kim July 2, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    I really appreciate this blog posted today. I find myself reflecting back to moments in my classroom where I let my emotions get the best of me. I know for sure that I could’ve responded better to some classroom situations for the sake of my students and my emotional well-being. As I think back, even when I responded emotionally to my students not doing their homework, it’s not like doing that helped to increase the homework rate. There were definitely more practical ways to handle that issue and sometimes I just have to accept the fact that I don’t have to take it personally every single time my students don’t do their homework! I really like the idea of posting that mantra somewhere I can quickly glance at it. This will especially help me as I continue to grow and work my way into my third year of teaching. Dang Dave, back at it again with another bomb blog! 😄

    • davestuartjr July 12, 2016 at 9:05 am #

      Kim, we all need reminders. Thank you for the encouragement of a “bomb blog” 🙂

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