It was one of those years when spring gets trampled in the clash between winter and summer. Just after we emerged from five months in the deep freeze, May set off a heatblast that nearly scorched us.
Still, something in me always demands fresh oxygen when school lets out. So after an hour of listening to the fluorescent lights buzz in my empty classroom, I headed home to the shade of our maple tree and plunked down with a book we’d been handed for summer reading, Teaching With Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom, by Jim Fay and Charles Fay (2016).
This reading wasn’t my first exposure to Love and Logic. I’d attended an introductory seminar at a convention once, and a couple of teachers I knew were using the approach in their classrooms; but I had been too immersed in the research for my own book, Beyond Control, to give Love and Logic a serious look. That work now complete, I was ready for a different perspective. So I dug in.
My mind must have been craving new ideas for classroom discipline as much as my lungs were sucking for fresh air, because I polished off the whole thing in less than two days. The authors, you see, promised to help educators maintain “calm and effective classrooms,” and there were plenty of times in the final weeks when my room was neither of those. What a pity, I thought: my year might have ended on a better note if I’d had access to some of those techniques a month or two sooner.
One “summer blessing” teachers are privy to–beyond having the time to absorb new ideas–is a breathing space for reflecting on new ideas. Now don’t go thinking that I sat and pondered under that tree for the whole summer, because I didn’t! Just like you, hopefully, I got to enjoy lots of diversions from teaching. But I did continue to reflect, amid the fun, because I want to think carefully about any discipline practice that impacts the lives of students.
One of my teaching mentors, John Van Dyk, once remarked, “We’re all pragmatists when it comes to classroom discipline. We want something that works.” He’s right, too. We know that our teaching won’t get through to kids if we can’t get them to cooperate. But–as I also believe Van Dyk would contend–if we claim that a certain approach works, we have to back up and ask what goal we were trying to achieve in the first place. In other words, what objectives do we want to meet through the discipline strategies we choose?
In the current blog series, I’d like to encourage some reflection on classroom discipline practices for Christian educators. We’ll focus on Love and Logic in particular because of its growing popularity in Christian schools, but the kind of reflection we’re doing could really apply to any classroom discipline approach. For starters, what are your underlying goals in classroom discipline? If you’re looking for a system that “works,” what do you hope it will accomplish for you?
- Keeping kids quiet?
- Limiting inattentive behavior?
- Curbing negative attitudes, like disrespect, entitlement, or apathy?
- Teaching students to be considerate of others?
- Motivating children to become absorbed in their learning?
- Developing servant hearts?
Finally, if you are familiar with the Love and Logic philosophy, which goals in this list is that approach best suited to address?
Love and Logic Blog Series:
- Keeping the Mileage Off Your Discipline Tools
- The Limits of Love and Logic in Christian Classrooms
- Love & Logic: Reading Between the “One-Liners”
Alan Bandstra writes and speaks about classroom discipline from a Christian perspective. His book, Beyond Control: Heart-Centered Classroom Climate and Discipline (Dordt University Press, 2014), is the product of more than fifteen years of research and reflection, trial and error. Lots of error! Al teaches sixth grade at Sioux Center Christian School, and he was educated at Dordt University (B.A. in education and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction).