As we come towards the end of the semester I notice the classroom agreements beginning to slide. A little side talk here, some note writing there… and with so much rich material in the room, who wants to stop the show to address what’s going on? But then Fred’s quarterly email popped into my box (a left over remnant from an earlier profession) and I stopped short: “Discipline always comes before instruction.” If you ignore it, it will most likely get worse. It certainly won’t get better. As Fred notes, “Of course the problem is small. Of course the lesson is important. Of course discipline management is inconvenient. But you cannot turn a blind eye to disruptions. No means no every time, or it means less than nothing. Stop dithering and do your job, or quit kidding yourself and admit that you really are a weenie.”
Fred has a way with words but he has studied classrooms, including the best and worst teachers, for decades and is deeply committed to the process of excellent teaching and learning. I use many of his techniques every day. So when he says that my inconsistency is reducing my capacity to nurture– in this case to nurture the practice of mindfulness– I take note.
The day after reading his email, I jumped back into the discipline game with two consistent side talkers, both of whom have low to medium motivation and one of whom desperately wants the other to stay below the line. Using the “what happened,” “what’s at stake” and “what’s next” technique outlined in the “Art of Communication” manual, I got a (surprisingly upbeat) verbal agreement from both of them to sit apart from each other for the remainder of the semester.
Now of course it’s up to me to be consistent! Happy mindfulness nurturing everyone…
Rebecca in RI