Ah, June, that blissful time of year when students find it hard to sit still, and teachers eagerly anticipate the arrival of their well-deserved summer holidays. June can be a tough time for many reasons, and discipline is one of them. We often associate discipline negatively in schools, but let's not forget its importance.
Discipline helps maintain a safe and productive learning environment for both students and staff. Unfortunately, many teachers feel unsupported in this area, contributing to burnout and frustration. And with a significant increase in principal turnover in recent years, new administrators may struggle to establish and enforce effective disciplinary procedures.
The good news? There are ways for administrators to re-establish discipline and support their staff and students during these final days of the school year. Here are five strategies to help schools overcome that year-end slump.
Schools need proactive approaches to discipline, and they need to be consistent. Teachers should receive the support they need to manage classroom behavior, especially during the last month of school.
Discipline cannot be effective without the support and collaboration of all staff:
Educators play a critical role in creating a positive and supportive learning environment. When equipped with the right:
All personnel effectively respond to student behavior and misconduct.
A school's discipline policy is only as strong as the staff who uphold it, so we must give educators a seat at the table. Through collaboration, educators and administrators can come up with new and fresh ideas.
Each discipline style includes one common thread:
They're all rooted in empathy and understanding.
It's hard when the little indiscretions add up inside the classroom walls. Teachers can only take so much, but kids will still be kids. So remember that corrective action needs to be for empowerment, not retribution.
Let's take a closer look at those strategies:
1. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to discipline. It focuses on teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors, rather than punishing negative behaviors. This includes:
PBIS reduces the need for punitive discipline by emphasizing positive behaviours and targeting support. This fosters positive learning communities, which perpetuates higher school morale.
But to create a PBIS program that is not "program rich, impact poor," administrators need ongoing training. With high teacher turnover and student behavioral issues, continued PBIS training is an investment with a huge ROI. That's because teachers cite student behavioral issues as a leading cause of their burnout. Since PBIS is an evidence-based practice, it's worth keeping it as continuous professional development for all staff.
2. Restorative justice practices emphasize repairing and restoring relationships rather than punishing. This approach involves bringing together the parties involved in a conflict to:
This empathy-driven approach builds better understanding and support. Some schools don't use this for peer-to-peer conflicts either. Restorative justice works well in repairing student and teacher relationships, too. For example, a teacher refers a student to detention or in-school suspension. Before receiving the consequence, there's a standard procedure. The school building principal can meet with both parties to discuss the incident. This promotes student voice and student agency. And it helps to mend the crucial student-teacher relationship. Restorative justice practices can create a more positive and collaborative school culture.
3. Trauma-informed care recognizes and addresses the underlying trauma that may contribute to a student's behavior. Many students carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes school is the only safe place for them. So, they tend to lash out. Trauma-informed care creates a more supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students.
One in every five students at Henry County School District lost a family member to COVID-19. They knew they couldn't return to school with a business-as-usual attitude. That's why administrators applied ESSER III funds to create a new role in mental health. This is the epitome of responsiveness. Now students receive specialized support services through proactive interception instead of reactive punishments.
4. Mindfulness and social-emotional learning (SEL) are also important strategies for supporting students during their last month of school. Some state legislatures clash over SEL's presence in the classroom. Whatever you want to call it, student well-being intersects with student achievement.
Districts can drive SEL with ample student practice in:
Adams-Friendship Area School District is an example of successful SEL implementation. Teachers embed SEL throughout the school day. That way, they don't feel like it's outside their daily responsibilities. Students share how they witness conflict-resolution skills during recess and gym class: a true testament to SEL's impact. Mindfulness and SEL help students cope and manage their emotions and behavior. Students get concrete tools to communicate. As a result, it reduces the need for ineffective, punitive discipline.
5. Teacher recognition. School administrators can foster a positive school culture that emphasizes:
Administrators boost morale and motivation with genuine acknowledgment. Schools with happy staff are contagious. If everyone feels respected and supported, it makes the work joyful again.
One principal in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote handwritten letters to each staff member's family. This principal wanted to share her appreciation while also acknowledging how hard their job is, how hard they work, and what a difference they make every day. This meant more to them than a casual Friday.
Healthy, supportive learning environments need responsive discipline strategies. Successful implementation of proactive discipline requires:
Collaboration helps everyone navigate challenges more effectively, ending the school year on a positive note. And by setting up these discipline strategies towards the end of the school year, administrators and teachers can ensure a smoother transition into the new one.
School administrators should evaluate discipline policies regularly to ensure effectiveness. First, define the goals and desired outcomes of the disciplinary plan. Then, follow evidence-based methods. Districts can maintain transparency and accountability of their discipline policies by reporting them to the public.
Sparkrock 365 provides a secure platform for sharing disciplinary updates, interventions, and progress monitoring, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential and only accessible to those with the correct permissions. Our modern cloud-based ERP system promotes effective communication and collaboration among teachers, administrators, and staff members. By fostering improved communication channels, administrators can maintain consistency in implementing the new discipline strategy across the entire school community. Learn more now.