The Unabashedly Strict Teacher: The real discipline problem lies with the parents

By VERONICA O’BRIEN

Passing the buck.  It’s done day in, day out.  And, no where does the buck get shuffled through changing hands more than at school.  Particularly, the buck of discipline is lost in the loose handshakes of the school system.

Follow this classroom scenario: a teacher lays down a law, student breaks law, teacher sends student out of room for administrative discipline, child returns a short while later, hand unaffected.  Sound familiar?  Well, according to the teacher in the 1947 teacher education videos, its all in your control as the teacher.

Watch here… 

Everyone has a strong opinion about discipline in the school systems.  Children blame teachers for unruly classrooms, teachers blame weak administrations, administrators blame districts or board of education policy.  Everyone has a finger to point, but no responsibility is ever accepted.  Teachers could blame students for their disrespect, but what youngster follows every rule? In an ideal world this would be the case, but who lives in Mayberry?

Believe it or not, teachers have power over student behavior.  I am a strict teacher.   I have the confidence to admit this.   I do not allow my students to dictate over my rule.  I know what type of classroom environment is most suitable for learning and am unafraid to enforce it.   I am the professional, not them.   But this doesn’t stop them from questioning every move.  Children must learn from someone how to properly behave and when missteps occur, correction is due.  So as long as there is mutual respect, peace is possible.  But, when this is breached, there are consequences.  It is very simple.  It works.

As draconian as this sounds, my students appreciate this realm of action-consequence.  Whenever the “friend” approach was used by my peers, their classrooms quicky turned to chaos.   Every student knows which teachers have “out of control” classrooms.  They joke about how circus-like Mr. X’s class is.  Never do you hear them exalt that crazy classroom as a real learning environment.  I have found that the children in those classrooms have more disdain for the loose environment than the teachers themselves who complain about the stress of the chaos.  The teachers hate it.  The students hate it more.

Now, I know it’s not simple to have a well ordered classroom.  But, anything worthwhile is hard.    Unfortunately, in many districts, the administration does more to prevent a disciplined classroom than they do to create one.  “Mercy” rulings give them the power to wipe the slate clean, yet when a child returns to the classroom, the spared punishment only serves to fuel future outbursts or violations.  The lesson of the day when amnesty is granted is: I got away with it again!  Chance after chance is given in the vice principals office, but once the student graduates they are at a large disadvantage because the court system is not that forgiving!

Teachers are left with their backs against the wall.  There is so little they can do without the backing of the big-ups in “the office.”  Raising complaints to the administration is like pissing in the wind—more often than not they end up wet (or in more trouble than the offender who started the mess to begin with).  What are we, as educators, left to do?

Parents, often looked at last in the equation, should hold more responsibility for their children’s actions.  Mom and Dad coming into school is often much more effective than an afterschool detention—that is If they are effective as parents at all.  These days parents are more concerned with self esteem and popularity than any adherence to conventional behavioral norms.  Let me tell you, detention was nothing compared to what was waiting for me when I got home.  My parents were infamous.  Even though I often complained about them– I sure learned the lessons of appropriate behaviors.

I find that kids are not afraid of their parents or consequence, as I once was.  This fearlessness can and should make teachers very afraid. Why are adults afraid to chafe a student’s sense of right and wrong?

Of course classroom conflicts are more complex than the simple solution of discipline and for the sake of brevity; I acknowledge that I am sticking to the trifecta of parent, teacher, administration when the problem may require more than just those three. But—all learning occurs in controlled environments, so the foundation of character building is often fostered at school. Thus, we have the greatest affect and must all work together to build a foundation which will suffice to uphold the societal standards of our future.  If the teacher, administrator and parent cannot come to some accord, we will bear witness to the corrosion of respect for good.  Authority will continue to fade as school administrations further loosen their grasp on discipline which will only make teaching harder in schools already plagued by other issues.  Remember, as in the first moments of the movie, “The vast majority of behavior problems in the classroom involve minor breeches of discipline…all within the control of the teacher.”

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34 Comments

Filed under Essays, Uncategorized

34 responses to “The Unabashedly Strict Teacher: The real discipline problem lies with the parents

  1. Ron OBrien

    Its all about control and not losing it. Control cannot be established without leverage. Kids want to learn, they do not want to feel stupid. Without the backing of the regulators (in this case the administration) the teacher is cannon fodder. The best teaching environment is the one that establishes boundaries, enforces them fairly, and most importantly relates the information to real world issues.

    The most influential teacher in my life was my history teacher in 7th grade. I would have to watch an hour of Macneil Lehrer news hour (pbs) and write weekly multi page reports on current events. I realize now it taught me the difference between the journalism of cable news (at the time Current Affair w maury povich) vs. news that is not selling ad space . I never wrote more or learned more about the world than in that class. I also never have spent as much time working on a class outside the classroom, waking up at 5am, or staying up late. And I loved it. He was a weird guy but honest with us about his lifestyle, he was a nudist on the weekends and he wore a bolo tie and denim on the weekdays. A little too much info I know, but what im trying to get across was the fact he absolutely changed my view of the world, taught me academic discipline and showed me you didnt have to conform to succeed. All in 7th grade.

    • Christina Kaufman

      Finally – an article written about who is the adult and who is the child and the consequences when the child has “mis-behaved” in school.
      I applaud the writer and wish that we all did live in Mayberry RFD – but that’s not the case.
      When will today’s parents realize that they must parent and not try to be a BFF to their child? Children need to be parented, not praised for their every move they make, every picture they draw, every game that they play in – no scores at games or anything like that – no winner, no loser, blah blah blah.
      Teachers are the most imporant aspect in a childs’ development and SOMEONE out there needs to understand that.
      Stop the nonsense – teach the child, parent the child – but for heaven’s sake, take care of the teacher. Protect them, praise them, pay them and be respectful of them.
      Thank you!

  2. Sharon Davis

    I have been called “mean” by some kids as I, too, am strict. I have explained I am not their mother, nor am I their buddy. I am so tired of the “new” parents of today who refuse to discipline their kids; nor teach manners and lack follow thru. Kids talk back and the parents look so helpless,”what can I do?” When I was growing up whether I liked what my parent/teacher said: that was that. Principals? Non-supportive for the teacher:always back the parent. Sad day in our country when authority means zip!

  3. J.

    Sharon, I’m a laid back parent. But that does not mean there is no discipline. Not at all. I just have a different approach. My parents were at times authoritarian and so I travel a different path. My child does not talk back to her teacher, ever. I’m lucky, we’ve never had that problem. She’s a really good kid. Does she talk back to her parents? It’s happened. Does she get away with it? Hell, no!

    As for principals always backing up the parent, not the teacher? Not in our experience. Of course, in the rare times I’ve contacted a principal, it’s never been about discipline issues. But there have been times over the years where I’ve needed to go up the chain and although the school responded to my request to schedule the meeting, the hidden message was always loud and clear. Tell me your story but my role is to back the teacher. Always.

    Principals make teachers do all sorts of things they don’t like today, like NCLB. I feel for teachers under those circumstances. Teachers on blogs report how insecure they sometimes feel. I hear you. But one thing seems certain. No matter how unreasonable the principal, he/she always seems to back you!

  4. Rachel

    Actually, one of my teachers employs similar teaching methods as the first example given in the video. Most students do not have any respect for him, but he somehow manages to rule the class through fear. On the other hand, there are certain teachers who I respect. I believe that these teachers succeed in teaching students more efficiently than the teachers who rule by fear.

  5. Sharon Davis

    to J: Being a laid back parent does not equate with bad parenting. I am talking about illiterate parents, who view schools as free day care… whatever their child tells them happens at school is the gospel truth.It is no wonder these kids have learned to lie so well; they emulate their parents.These parents act helpless and expect the teacher to teach and mother. Nothing wrong with being authoritarian., unless it is abusive. Fact is “the boss” the one in charge is the authoritarian.Principal at my school backs everyone BUT the teacher.Hence she has no respect amongst the staff nor the community. She is black white: Parents rule: teachers are garbage.

  6. atnarkiev

    I agree that strictness(setting limits and enforcing them consistently,compassionately-for the most part) is an important part of education-in abroad sense. What I find is that strictness just to have a control over the child – tends to be punitive without any genuine compassion. And the kids can sense it well, close up and not learn as well. I have a reasonable teacher foy my 5th grader who- my child says “NEVER SMILES” never lets up. and another math teacher who hates kids to read up ahead or practice and is punitive t o them. ? initiative is bad? My child finds the school boring – she gets good grades but tries to avoid school lately
    any ideas?

  7. Diane

    After working in the same neighborhood for 21 years, I have never experienced so many students who have not one shread of respect for their teachers, school or parents. They come in without pencils but with $200 dollar handheld games and cell phones, expensive sneakers and no notebooks or bookbags. They have no problem verbally abusing and threatening anyone (teachers/principal) who get in their way. These students don’t believe in the Chancellor’s Discipline Code, being polite or doing their best to impress. Some have minimal attention spans, ADHD and ODD so there’s no sense of responsibility. Sadly these kids and their parents are backed by a system that gives them all the rights and the teachers none. That system where we have to fill out anecdotals to get a suspension takes so long and has no change on the child’s behavior because he/she just gets placed back in their home school.So I invite one of you to come to my school and video tape your teaching and classroom management skills so that my staff and I can learn from the “master teachers.” Show us how “differentiated instruction” will impact disruptive behavior and the lunacy that is going on is so many nyc schools.
    Brooklyn In The House

  8. J.

    Diane, I was on your side until I read this part:

    “Some have minimal attention spans, ADHD and ODD so there’s no sense of responsibility.” Whoa! My daughter just graduated from the #1 high school in America (at least US News thinks so). She has ADD. She’s also a National Merit Scholar and scholarship winner. ADD does not mean loser. Please. Get some education on this, dear.

  9. Nix Arrowman

    (This is likely a very late response to an unchecked snippet and sorry if that is the case.)

    I myself am a student at High school and for most of what you have said (save for the ADD section), I completely agree with. There are too many teachers (In my school at least) that allow the students to walk all over them and the distractions become absurd! Sure, many of them strive for that ‘friendship’ level, but in doing so, give up a certain respect. With my classes pockmarked by cellphone use, foul language, and outright arguing with the teacher on a day to day bases, it is refreshing to hear of a teacher that is not afraid to use the power that comes with the position. Even more so that there is a teacher out there who enforces the rules!

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  11. houton markham

    Today’s children lack social skills thus causing many problems in the classrooms. This lack of social skills is due to the lack of parenting skills from today’s parents. Because of this, today’s classroom is like a zoo because the teachers are not able to discipline their students. It is true that instructors play a vital role however, it is difficult to teach when so many students are more concerned with how to make their classmates laugh, knowing there will be no consequences for their behavior.
    While it is true that some teachers lack the ability to manage their classroom, the overarching problem in the school system isthe lack of parental guidance at home.

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  13. CarlCL

    I think I have a stern teacher but she feels sympathy to me and my classmates. One thing if my classmate does unruly things or make faces, my teacher will send him or out and contract his or her parents that they will be informed of his or her responsible or irrensponsible behavior. i must be quiet and serious hard working with my stern teacher.

  14. Jw bush

    Where ae your fucking references god damn fools calling yourselves teachers! You can’t use a video with no reference. Whats wrong with you idiot the author of this article is an ass truly.

  15. Asmund

    There are two way to be a succesfull teacher in my eyes. As im still a student, I can talk on our behalf on what we like.

    The first one is, as you said, being strict. I know I learn a lot from strict teachers and do as they say. because im afraid of the consequences.

    The 2nd one, which in my eyes are much more effective, is being a nice teacher that follow up each student and makes the subject fun. If you ever saw “Dead poets society” I could use the new english teacher as a example. He isnt strict at the students, but they respect him anyway and do as he says. They even look forward to have english. Ive had two teachers like this, both of them made me look deep into the subjets and everyones grade raised after we got them.

    And there is also teachers that have no controll in the classroom and one would almost fall asleep if the desk wasnt so hard.

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  28. Keith

    I am Keith and I am a senior in high school and this could not be more wrong. This teacher is ruining these kids creative minds and corrupting them to be desk jockeys. This teacher should be ashamed to call themselves a teacher. I guarantee the kids don’t like you enough to respect you as anything other than a dictator

  29. Ian

    dictatorship is fine . not here to be liked . in classroom to teach . If they dont like it they can learn in detention after school until they do

    Sir

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