Thinking about Discipline – Part 3

Some Classic Mistakes

In my first two posts in this series on Discipline, I mentioned some of the causes of undisciplined behaviour and a few proactive steps which I believe will help in creating a classroom atmosphere which promotes disciplined behaviour.

Image courtesy of http://www.morguefile royalty free photos

In this post, the third post in this series on discipline, I would like to mention a few points about teacher traits which may cause students not to be the angels we would like them to be!

I am an expert on how not to be an angel – being unruly was my modus vivendi throughout my school years and what follows is a list of what caused me to be rowdy and unruly; a series of traits displayed by a long line of teachers from a different century.

What my teachers did

  • They lectured
  • They screamed and shouted
  • They punished unfairly and harshly
  • They humiliated students publicly
  • They insisted on having the last word
  • Their body language was negative
  • They used violence
  • They never praised anyone but the top students
  • They had irritating quirks, like keys jangling in pockets, scratching in strange places, odd gestures etc
  • They never moved from behind their desks
  • They droned!
  • They had really boring voices!
  • They recited the book and made no other effort to animate the content
  • They made sarcastic remarks if you made a mistake
  • They ridiculed weaker students
  • They had favourites
  • They were unfair
  • They sulked and were unforgiving
  • They made irrelevant comments
  • They accused anyone or everyone
  • They were vindictive
  • They often lost control of their class
  • They were not always well prepared
  • They could be easily confused by student questions
  • They made weaker students feel stupid or inferior

Watch this classic from the Teacher Education Series of the 40’s

There were other things, too, which made me misbehave

  • A teacher who dressed very sloppily or oddly
  • A teacher who was personally not clean or whose clothes were dirty or stained, or who smelled musty!
  • A teacher who had unpleasant personal habits, such as picking his nose, or, in the case of some male teachers, adjusting their, well, hmm… jewels :-)
  • A teacher who gave low marks to poor students and high marks to those whose parents paid them for private tutoring time
I could go on for ever!
Here is a great video I found on You Tube – it was made in 1947 and it’s great to see how it repeats much of what I said above!

So are Students Unkind?

 Students will jump at every opportunity – rowdiness is often a need to release energy, especially in younger learner classes, and they will misbehave, especially if some of the other behaviour traits are in evidence, causing them to feel bored, anxious, fearful, or unfairly treated.
I don’t think students are unkind but good behaviour is modelled, not taught, so one should not be surprised at what such models may produce!
The few occasions where I was attentive had to do with teachers whose lessons were interesting and whose behaviour modelled the kind of behaviour they expected of us; you have heard this common saying amongst teachers: “Teacher shouts, class shouts”…. 
Which doesn’t say much about the series of sorry educators I had to learn from at school.


Things are different today and, hopefully, the traits I mentioned would not be possible, at least in such high frequency, in contemporary schools.
But it’s a big world out there and it’s not all rosy.

  from BGW, 1989, by Marisa Constantinides

In many parts of the world these teacher behaviours are perpetuated; and what may pass for discipline may be its opposite end – apathy! 

A way forward

At one time or another, we may have all made mistakes that caused our students to misbehave – the reflective teacher will find their way out of the vicious circle of being a poor role model and causing, rather than solving or anticipating discipline issues in their classes.

How many of those mistakes like these have you made in your teaching career?   What were the results?

Do you have any stories to tell, stories which made you realise that you needed to change your tactics?

If you do, please share them in the comments.

Your Task

Turn all the classic mistakes into positive teacher behaviours!

And hopefully, you, too will be able to give the same outstanding answer as one of my good colleagues who answered like this when asked the question “How do you solve your discipline issues?


“Discipline issues? I never have any!” 


11 replies

  1. This series is really great, Marisa. I’ve been teaching adults from college level on up for so long that I was completely taken aback this emester when I started teaching 18 year olds at a junior college and noticed they had far shorter attention spans, were texting in class, and group tasks that worked just fine with Masters students would go spinning off into conversations in L1 within seconds. That certainly gave me the sense of losing control of the class. Mind you, I’m techie and tried to get them to do all manner of fun stuff, but that wasn’t the issue at all: I’m discovering it’s really about challenging them to perform at their highest level that is starting to make them focus more. So as I read through your list and the outward classic mistakes register and sound right, I’m thinking: It’s not about us and our outward behavior as much as getting the challenge just right for that particular class and situation.

  2. Hi Marisa! This is the first time I visit your blog and I find it very useful. Thank you! Maybe you are really an expert in what causes students to be naughty. 🙂

    Great list of mistakes made by teachers.

  3. Thanks very much and congratulations for your helpful blog. I’m an English teacher. Actually I’m working in a primary public school in Spain with children from three to six years old. I have included some educational websites sites in my blog. They are a very good resource for my classes. El Blog de Espe.

  4. Hi Marisa. I found your posts about discipline very interesting and they surely clarify many reasons why students misbehave. I had a student last semester who would drive me nuts. He needed attention all the time, so he would do anything to get it. He would hit friends, make silly movements, run in the classroom, shout.. a 5 year old boy that made my life really difficult for 4 months and a half.. well, I, at first, would lose control of my voice after the 10th time I would call out his name. And I would get so nervous and tired after the class and I didn’t know what to do, because his mom had told me he behaves the same way at home or when he goes to judo classes+ swimming classes..well, she keeps him busy! She’s also told me that he goes to a therapist, but his parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in an apartment, spending most of his time with a nanny. Well, I started to understand a bit why he behaves like that. He has no time with his family, and he’s only 5, he doesnt know how to deal with that situation. So I started to have a different way of approaching him, being strict but caring and even though I know I have not made a miracle ( cause he was messy ’till the end) I could see he evolved, as he started to listen to me and do what I would ask for. In the last class, he came to me and said I was his favorite teacher. I found that really cute and I know that somehow I could help him feel more comfortable as a student and as a special human being.

    • Hi Paula,

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your story. It reminded me that most of the cases I mentioned (e.g. the two sisters or the boy who dangled his friend from the 3rd floor) were students who had problems at home.

      Some individual attention and a caring attitude sometimes goes a long way beyond shouts or punishment


  5. Oh, and I forgot to say something very important: the help of friends from work who have more experience than me, showing that dealing with human beings, being 5 or 50,is always a challenge but that’s the beauty of our job. 🙂

  6. kids are all geniuses, when you shut them to behave, sit still and be quite – their brain is shutting down compromising the quality of the information flow and its perception, curent educational system sucks, why same age groups? why same age groups? why not have a mixed subject lessons? why not different class-room spaces

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