Swapping Discipline for Strength Spotting Creates A Positive Learning Environment

August 6, 2019

Discipline is one of the most difficult, time consuming, and stressful aspects of teaching. Taking time to discipline a student interrupts learning and continues the disruption initially caused by the unwanted behavior. It’s also not always effective. Different learning styles, varying levels of social maturity and emotional well-being, and a variety of other factors dramatically affect how well your discipline strategy works in your classroom.

What if there was a different approach?

While discipline certainly has its place and your students need to understand that there are consequences for disruptive behavior, why not try focusing first on their strengths? Responding to disruptive or undesirable behavior in your classroom by calling out your student’s strength re-frames the incident and may produce positive, desirable outcomes for both you and the student.

Students are used to being reprimanded for the disruptive behavior. In fact, your student may use it as a way to get attention. Turning that interaction into a positive one that recognizes and builds on their strengths can redefine the dynamics of your classroom.

Here are some examples of using strength-based language to address some common classroom behaviors you may see on a regular basis. Use your own strengths of love of learning and perspective to implement this new strategy into your classroom.

I notice you are using your strength of humor right now, which is really bringing joy to your classmates, I’m wondering how you can apply that to solve the math equation.

You are doing a great a job using your strength of love to check on your friend and how she is feeling. Would you 2 like to go to the hall to finish so the rest of the class can focus, or would you like to finish the conversation at recess?

I can tell that you have the strength of friendship (social intelligence) by the way you communicate with all the students in the classroom. Don’t forget that an important aspect of friendship is providing a quiet space so your friends can concentrate.

I appreciate your strength of zest, as you come in every day full of energy and ready to go for the day. If you need some space to move around safely, I am happy to give it to you. Please be mindful of allowing the other students to see what I am doing up here, as well.

The class really values your strength of leadership, and you know I appreciate it, as well. It is important as leader to sometimes lead by example, rather than arguing with your teacher. I appreciate and want to hear your feedback. You can be a leader and be respectful at the same time.

You really love to learn, don’t you? It is very tempting to want to explore the materials in the math center when we are working on science. I can assure there will be ample time to explore those materials later, but right now it is important to use your love of learning to stretch your brain in math.

That was very brave of you to stand up for your friend at recess. I am wondering if we could problem solve different ways you could use your bravery, but keep you from getting in trouble, at the same time?

I saw you using your strength of self-regulation when your peer was prodding you during reading group, and you used your assertive language to tell her how you felt without disrupting the entire class.

You are so curious! I appreciate all the question you have for me and your peers. How can I help you get all of your questions answered, without disrupting the learning of others?

Wow! I can tell this table really likes working as team. I love your strength of team work. Can you use your strength of team work to consider those outside of your team and use a quieter voice while you work together?

You are really great at using your strength of perseverance when you don’t feel like giving up once your mind is set on something. How can I help you understand that you can accomplish what you put your mind to within the boundaries of school rules at the same time?

It looks like you are using your Appreciation of Beauty to notice things outside the window right now.

Oh Wow! I love all these great ideas you are coming up with as you use your strength of creativity! If you raise your hand and allow others to have turn, you can help me understand their ideas, too.