Kim Zewan

Keri Nedimyer

Part One: Theoretical Inquiry

As prospective teachers, we were both concerned with certain problems that

might arise dealing with classroom management, such as verbal

interruptions, off-task behavior, physical movement intended to disrupt, as

well as those students who are generally hostile. In our own personal

experiences we have encountered teachers who may not have handled

discipline problems as effectively as possible. These teachers

often ostracized or humiliated their students by attempting to make an

example with the students. These situations and experiences led us to

inquire into this topic to flush out the best and most comfortable way to

deal with problems such as these in our own classes. Specifically, the

question we intend to explore is: How can we prevent unnecessary

conflict in our classroom(s) between teachers and students, or among

students themselves?

In our opinions, the most powerful relationship a teacher can have with a

student is one of mutual respect. Therefore, we felt that we should make

one of our personal goals to achieve this power base with our classes. The

idea of referent power is that the students respect the teacher as a

person, and as a result, they respect the teacher as a

teacher. Understand that referent power may not be achieved with every

class or with every student, but we think it is the responsibility of the

teacher to make an attempt to build a respectful relationship with her

students. The teacher must at least do her part to show her students that

she will respect them, and in return she will expect respect from the

class. If the teacher is able to make the class think about, and care

about, how she feels about their actions, then the class has built a firm

foundation toward establishing a deferential relationship. Thus, the

teacher is closer to achieving a referent power


We researched several ways to work toward achieving a referent lower base.

One way to begin building relationships with students is to take the

initiative to support and guide students. It is important to note that

there is usually nothing personal in students' negative attitudes toward

other individuals present in the classroom environment. Experience has

taught students that adults are not to be counted on and that teachers are

not on their side. Students assume that teachers do not care about them;

they expect hostility and disrespect from teachers, just as a teacher might

expect such behavior

from students.

One key factor that can alone determine whether a child growing up in

difficult circumstances succeeds in avoiding a hostile and violent outlook

is the presence in the child's life of an adult who is nurturing,

supportive, and provides positive guidance. Such students, according to

Goldstein, "need teachers who can separate the message, 'I

value you as a person,' from 'what you did is not right.'" This is the

first step in building a foundation for trust, and reaching out to them

might encourage students to modify their attitudes. If teachers do not

attempt to reach difficult students, they invite more resistance and

confrontation. What a teacher stands to gain through working toward

positive relationships, however, leads to more cooperation. Students are

less inclined to challenge the teacher's authority, and the teacher will

feel more confident in dealing with

students when disruptions occur. An important point to recognize is that

teachers should not aim to become friends with their students. Teachers

should, on the other hand,

show interest in their students as people. Inquiring about extracurricular

activities, home lives, and friends are good ways to establish a rapport

with students. Therefore, showing interest in students makes them see that

their presence is important. Some suggestions, offered by Lee Canter, of

behaviors a teacher could utilize to initiate positive interactions with

students follow:

1. Bringing up nonacademic topics of mutual interest.

2. Expressing care, concern and empathy.

3. Speaking on behalf of a student who is in trouble with the school


4. Attending extracurricular activities.

5. Recognizing and praising students' strengths and achievements, both

academic and nonacademic.

When teachers establish loyalty with their students, students are more

likely to respond in a reciprocal manner.

An integral part of good classroom management lies in developing rules and

consequences which are fair to students and which teachers feel comfortable

enforcing. These rules and consequences should be a collaborative effort of

both the students and the teacher, and should reflect the values of

everyone in the classroom. Rules are necessary in classrooms because

students are highly sensitive to changing

situations. Therefore, rules should be directed at organizing the learning

environment to ensure continuity and quality of teaching and learning, not

at exerting control over students.

It is vastly important for teachers to realize that they cannot control

the behavior of any other individual. Therefore, rules must be developed to

encourage students to behave according to the teacher's wishes. Good rules

may be developed according to different criteria. They must be fair,

realistic, and can be rationalized as necessary for

the development of an appropriate classroom environment. Any rule must be

rationalized as being necessary to ensure that the teacher's right to teach

is protected, the students' rights to learning are protected, the students'

psychological and physical safety are protected, and property is protected.

In order for these rules to be taken seriously and followed by students,

consequences must be determined. However, natural consequences should be

allowed only if the situation warrants such a response. At the same time,

logical consequences must be developed in response to rules that may have

been overtly broken. Before

implementing those logical consequences, opportunities should be allowed

for the student to modify his/her behavior. The overall goal here is to

reinforce and attend to the student's new behavior. The students must

realize that they can obtain the same or even more attention and

recognition for appropriate behavior than they did for disruptive

behavior. Contrived consequences or punishments, such as removal of

privileges or painful experiences are not encouraged.

After a list of rules and consequences have been agreed upon, the teacher

should acquire commitments from each student, such as a handshake, verbal

commitment, or written contract verifying their willingness to comply with

the predetermined list. Older students should be asked to understand the

rules instead of abide by them. These acts provide a choice and, in a

sense, power to the student. It is the sole decision of the student to

determine whether or not to follow the rules and avoid the consequences.

Sometimes chronic problems exist in the classroom. In such cases, behavior

contracting may be used. Behavior contracts are an agreement between the

teacher and the student in which both parties understand that if the

student accomplishes the task of the contract then s/he will be rewarded.

The student is essentially given incentive to behave in class. Most chronic

discipline-problem students are looking for attention. If the teacher lets

the student know that the behavior has been noticed, and makes an effort to

influence the student to stop the behavior, the behavior is much more

likely to cease than it is by traditionally disciplining the student. The

student realizes that through behavior contracting s/he has the control in

the situation. It is left purely to the student to decide whether or not

s/he will obtain the reward; the task of the student is to follow the

stipulations of the contract. Behavior contracting is a very powerful means

by which to

encourage an otherwise unmanageable student to act the way the teacher

desires him or her to act in the classroom.

Classroom management is a very complicated process with no definite

guidelines for each and every situation. Good judgment and quick thinking

are important skills for a teacher to develop in order to make strong

decisions in managing students' behavior. We hope to apply skills such as

building trust in a fair classroom environment while minimizing avoidable

problems in our pre-service teaching experiences.