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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

LINKS: Blogger
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Progressively Unnecessary
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It's Not All Flowers and Sausages
So You Want To Teach?
Classroom Confessions
Teach Hub
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ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

RE: Disciplinary Measures
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apologies for my lack of posting this past week. Jon has been very patient and accommodating while I sorted out my personal life a bit. All is well, so now I must get down to responding to his brilliant musings. And post at least one of my own! So stay tuned.

A good chunk of my teaching experience before I started university came during my time as an Air Cadet. By the time I was 15, I was teaching classes and learning how to instruct effectively. I spent a lot of time with 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds, who in turn spent most of their time squirming around in their uncomfortable uniforms, wanting to talk to their friends or test paper airplanes instead of learning about citizenship and drill. Being that Cadets is a military-esque organization, well... let's just say I didn't take a lot of (for lack of a better word) crap from them.

The summer before university, I was an instructor at an Air Cadet summer training centre in Bagotville, QC. I was responsible for one group of 25 kids, aged 13-15, for three weeks, and when they left another batch took their place for the last three weeks. I taught them classes during the day, but I also played the role of camp counsellor, rounding them up to go to the beach, making sure their beds were made and uniforms spotless, and marching them in formation from place to place.

Put a bunch of early teens in a remote location, miles and miles from any parental contact, with 24 partners in crime at their disposal and not much to do in the evenings, and you've got a 'classroom' management situation that would terrify even the toughest of teachers (aka middle school teachers). Aside from the usual angsty drama, my kids also did the following, in no particular order:

- tortured a kid so much that he peed in a bottle rather than face leaving his tent
- vomited on my boot
- accidentally shot a staff member during archery (no one was seriously hurt, thankfully)
- had a fight with Axe body spray in an enclosed area
- ate so much candy that one kid had headaches that made him scream and cry the next day
- crushed up Tylenol and snorted it

The list goes on and on, but those are the highlights I can remember right now. Oh, and the Tylenol thing? The incident was reported to myself and my supervisor right away, but the boys vehemently denied it and my boss felt that they were being honest. The next summer, I ran into one of my former cadets, and he informed me that several kids actually had snorted the Tylenol. The kid who initiated it all? He was given an award for leadership and exemplary conduct at the end of the summer.

Anyway, all this to say-- I'm fairly no-nonsense when it comes to discipline. I will do my utmost to make my classes interesting and to engage all students, but sometimes that's not enough. I firmly believe that even older students still need routine, structure, and a certain degree of authority in the classroom.

If I had to describe my disciplinary style, I would invoke Mary Poppins. She's ingenious, always thinking of unique and interesting things to do and making ordinary things seem extraordinary. But when it comes down to it, she's in charge. She'll use humour or mild sarcasm to get her point across, but the point gets across, no exceptions.

As long as I provide my students with a stable, open, and safe classroom environment, it is within my rights to expect them to provide me with their cooperation for 75 minutes a day. The students I plan to teach are learning to be adults. I will treat them with the respect I treat adults if they act with adult-like maturity in return. Is that too much to ask?

Probably. There will be many students who don't keep up with their end of the bargain. I'm still fleshing out my disciplinary style and have yet to decide what steps I will take when particular students consistently cause serious problems. As Jon said though, once you figure out how to engage a kid, how to make him or her WANT to learn, the problems seem much less daunting. So I guess I'll start with that.


Please comment if you have any personal insights on classroom management and disciplinary style-- or if you have equally horrific camp-counsellor stories!

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