“When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.”
– Proverbs 28:2 NIV
Dr. Linda Albert, author of Cooperative Discipline, explains that students have 3 emotional needs they seek to fulfill when they are in the classroom. The need to feel capable, connected and contributing are her suggested emotional needs students look to satisfy while their in the classroom. When they are unsuccessful in achieving the fulfillment of having these needs met in constructive positive means, they will choose to seek to have these legitimate needs met in illegitimate ways classified by 4 specific goals of misbehavior: attention, power, revenge and avoidance of failure. By categorizing all student misconduct under the umbrella of these 4 goals, or classifications, it limits my need to try to analyze and legitimize the misconduct due to circumstances that are beyond my ability to influence or affect change and take accountability away from the student to manage and change the behavior.
After my 3rd year as a classroom teacher, using anger as my tool to manage my classroom and maintain order, I realized I needed to grow and change if I was going to have the necessary professional stamina to strive and thrive and not just survive in the classroom as an educator. During that summer of the conclusion of my 3rd year, I took Cooperative Discipline to satisfy my need to earn credits towards my certification. What I learned from the 5 day half-day workshops became a personal professional revolution for me and changed the course of my professional career as an educator in the classroom and my role as a school community leader. The understanding that students choose their own behavior was a pearl of wisdom and empowerment that helped me better manage my anger and student misconduct during my 4th year as a classroom teacher. My school community brought the classroom management program to our school to help our teachers and I took it again as part of the staff development. Every year since I have been a co-facilitator of the program. It is a timeless resource for educators that transcends the reality of the current conditions of our classrooms and school communities and empowers any who embrace the principles with an open mind. Many of the strategies used in addressing student misconduct identified as attention, power, revenge and avoidance of failure are strategies most of us already employ, but offer others we may not have considered that are just as effective.
What sold me on the validity of the program after going through the training initially that summer was what happened at the end of my 4th year. Directly across the hallway from me was a professional colleague of 30+ years of service as an educator who befriended me and we would talk and share our successes and struggles during the course of the school year. As the year progressed we also began to identify students we both worked with and discussed how we could work together to influence better production from them or share strategies that helped us in working with the student to perform and be productive. I knew Cooperative Discipline was a viable program that was changing me in how I managed my classroom when my professional colleague of 30+ years thanked me, at the end of the year, for sharing ideas and strategies I learned from Cooperative Discipline that helped her have what she declared was her best year as an educator! She told me the year she was retiring from the system turned out to be her best year and thanked me, someone with only 4 years experience, as the contributing factor to her fulfillment and success. I’ve said to myself and others since, that it was that affirmation from someone who had more years experience citing what I was learning and sharing that empowered her as it empowered me! I have been sold ever since!
May God grant you favor, wisdom and energy to labor with your students with love that will empower you and them to allow you to teach, influence and inspire learning.