Friday, July 8, 2011

Discipline Begins With Me

Every summer I try to hold off on thinking about school as long as possible.  Well, at least for the past two summers anyhow.  But every summer the first thing I start to think "heavy" on is discipline!  Could this be because I am spending so much time with my own two discipline issues??  Hmm... quite possibly!

I used to find discipline quite easy.  When it comes to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, it was really a piece of cake.  But these older kids - well, sadly to say, most seven year-olds have probably reached my level of strategic thinking.  They are crafty, I tell you!

Or, yes, there is a slight possibility that my patience has started to dwindle over the past couple of years.  (Okay, I'll be honest.... if that possibility were a slice of chocolate cake, it would be a me-sized portion- HUGE.)  Something happens to me when I am dealing with my, own kids' misbehavior day in and day out, and some really tough behaviors at school, working my butt off, trying to lose weight, and getting very little sleep!  I get just a little bit cranky.  I try to smile and put on my most cheerful voice, but those kids keep disturbing my peace!  I mean, those kids are so obnoxious, and loud, and they always want something, and I'm actually expected to teach them the right things to do and say and how to behave!  If only they would understand that I came to school to have fun with learning activities.  Why can't they just do the right thing without me having to explicitly spell it out for them?!?!

And THIS is why teachers need summer break, my friends.  I feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about all of the work ahead of me when it comes to discipline.  Of course, we all understand that it isn't really the kids' fault at all.  It's the state of mind of the teacher.  In those frazzled moments, our self-control is definitely challenged.  At the beginning of the year, though, we understand why our students do what they do.  We teach them what we DO want, and they want to please us, so they do what we prefer (mostly).  We have a great understanding of the child and the self-control to be a loving guide in all areas, including discipline.

At some point during the year, that inner self-control has been failing me, though.  I hold it together on the outside, but inside I am desperately trying to grasp for those kind words and thoughts to keep me from exploding.  It is exhausting.

This summer, I have begun to read the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Rebecca Anne Bailey, and just a chapter or two in,  I have fallen in love!  She puts the focus of discipline on the one thing we really can control:  ourselves.  It's nothing earth-shattering or that any good teacher or parent hasn't heard before.  But, it is something that I feel begs repeating - over and over and....  The whole premise of the book is that if we are going to teach others to have self-control, we first need to have it ourselves.  That means all the way down to controlling our thoughts.  Focusing on what you WANT to see, and not getting caught up in what is happening that you don't want.

This year, my plan is to spend the next two months gaining a little more control over myself.  I want to control where I put my attention, my use of time, what and when I eat, what activities I partake in, and how I interact with others - among other things.  Before I think about disciplining others, I need to discipline myself.  It is the goal of the teacher to be a model of character for students.  You cannot be raging within and create a peaceful environment.  It is what Maria Montessori would have called "preparation of the spirit."

"It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism." - Maria Montessori

I know many of us are hard at work on curriculum, and I will be, too, very soon, but now is the time to become at peace within.   My goal for this school year (and thereafter) is to have the kind of discipline that leaves me feeling satisfied with my life as a whole, rather than just the teaching side of it. ;-)


Discipline books I will read/review this summer....

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