Based on my educational philosophy assessment, my educational beliefs fall distinctly in the existentialist school of thought. However, I realize that an effective educator incorporates elements from all schools of thought and cannot be entrenched in the point of view of any one philosophy. In my classroom, I most identify with the strategies offered in Cooperative Discipline and Synergetic Discipline. I believe that students learn best when they feel a sense of ownership and independence over the behavioral expectations established in a classroom. These approaches fit in with my attraction to the existentialist educational theory that suggests students thrive when they understand and appreciate themselves as individuals who have ownership over their thoughts, decisions and actions. I am inspired by the methods that include students in the disciplinary process and threat them with dignity at all times.
It is widely agreed upon that the best way to prevent inappropriate behavior in the classroom is to design lessons that are engaging and require students to be active participants in any given activity. This is more easily said than done. However, there are some disciplinary methods that describe what this approach may look like.
1. “Involve your students in discussing the details of your lesson plan and listen to suggestions they might have,” (Charles, 2000, p. 247). Students must take an active role in creating the classroom expectations. By doing so, they are less likely to defy those expectations because they were not imposed upon them but, rather, created by them. This also allows the teacher to discuss misbehavior, why it negatively affects learning and how students can work together with the teacher to eliminate those factors (Charles, 2000).
2. “Maintain student interest and good personal relations,” (Charles, 2000, p. 247). Students need to feel comfortable in their surroundings and are more likely to behave positively when they are surrounded by people, places, objects, situations and activities they like (Charles, 2000).
3. “Encourage student input in class matters,” (Albert, 1989-1996, p. 95). By welcoming and respecting student input, a message is sent that their input is valued and appreciated (Albert, 1989-1996).
4. “Encourage students to help other students,” (Albert, 1989-1996, p. 95). Fitting in with the idea that students are more likely to exhibit positive behavior when they are in surroundings they like, students helping students only enhances that comfort level within the classroom. This type of community building helps ensure that no one student is left out and always has another classmate to lean on when necessary.
5. (Updated): Show students a “pathway to redemption,” (Jackson, 2010). In order to motivate students, we have to understand what they value and not what we value. Jackson refers to this as “starting where your students are.” Try to relate to their interests just for the sake of relating to them is often not helpful in motivating them to learn.
6. (Updated): The ideal classroom is one in which “students play an active role in decisions, teachers work with students rather than doing things to them…” (Kohn, 1996). The classroom setup is important in creating an environment that is interactive, working with students. Desks in rows that all face the front do not help create this type of environment. Students should be able to engage each other in discussion directly and ask questions of the teacher freely. Students should be able to work on different activities at the same time.
In order for students to succeed in the classroom, positive behavior must be reinforced rather than punishing misbehavior. Focusing on negative behavior and punishing in front of the class only creates an atmosphere of fear and does not foster a positive, creative and nurturing environment.
1. Besides trust, communication is the most important element of a synergetic classroom. Teachers must listen to student needs with genuine interest and speak encouragingly rather than talking down to students (Charles, 2000).
2. Problems in the classroom must be addressed immediately in order to prevent them from create an uncomfortable environment (Charles, 2000). By bringing them up right when they happen, a conversation can be initiated about what the problem is and possible solutions.
3. The teacher must help remove the fear of making mistakes. First, students must understand what mistakes are and that they are a part of the learning process (Albert, 1989-1996). Students must know that making a mistake is not a justifiable reason for getting punished. Mistakes are sometimes vital for students to find the correct behavior.
4. “Coopetition” can be a great way to build friendly competition in the classroom to succeed (Charles, 2000). Teachers must help create an environment where students want to succeed because their peers are succeeding rather than shut down and misbehave in order to get attention.
No matter how successful the preventive and supportive approaches can be, there is always still the possibility of misbehavior occurring that must be corrected. I think corrective approaches must always preserve each student’s dignity and seek to address the root causes of the behavior issue.
1. The teacher must identify the different types of misbehavior that might be occurring and address with strategies that target the specific type of behavior being exhibited. There is attention-seeking behavior, power-seeking behavior, revenge-seeking behavior and avoidance-of-failure behavior (Albert, 1989-1996). The teacher must seek to identify what the causes of the misbehavior may by and how they can be addressed.
2. “Focus on the behavior, not the student,” (Albert, 1989-1996, p. 98). Teachers must try to separate the student and the behavior so that the behavior can be addressed subjectively and without the baggage of previous experience attached to it.
3. “Allow the student to save face,” (Albert, 1989-1996, p. 98). Because students may choose to display some sort of defiance to maintain an image with their peers, teachers must be willing to overlook those behaviors and discuss the original misbehavior with the student later and in private.
4. In extreme cases, certain consequences must be introduced to combat misbehavior. The consequences must be “related, reasonable, respectful and reliably enforced” in order to be effective (Albert, 1989-1996, p. 99). This ensures that student are not merely punished but are made to understand what type of misbehavior occurred, why it is unacceptable and what must be done to prevent it from happening in the future.
The cooperative and synergetic classroom is a place where students feel comfortable to be themselves yet understand that there are behavioral expectations that must be respected. Those expectations are not imposed on them but are created by them. This element of choice and ownership contributes to the existentialist theory of education and helps limit the factors that lead to misbehavior in the first place. If and when misbehavior does occur, it is addressed with respect and dignity so as to decrease the chances of the behavior occurring again.