Assertive Discipline

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Assertiveness and assertive discipline is something that has helped me in so many ways. I highly recommend that you read more about it. I have created whole schemes of work using Improvisation around this topic and kids generally respond extremely well to it. I know of teachers who create classroom contracts based around assertive rights and use them when disciplining, thereby teaching social skills at the same time as managing behavior. Dealing with colleagues will require assertiveness. In fact I cannot think of an area of life where these skills are not useful.

The Triangle

Assertive Triangle

In this section on assertive discipline, I will focus on the 'stick' of behavior management, as opposed to the 'carrot'; which you will find in the 'Rapport' section. In my view, you need to learn how to be assertive and also how to build good relationships in order to be effective. When teachers get classroom discipline wrong, it is usually because they lack the ability to do one or the other. Read this section together with the Status section which has many practical classroom tips.

Teaching chose me, I didn't choose it. That's what I always say. However, it took me a long time to realize that I went into teaching to resolve unfinished business from my childhood. And I'm so glad that I did.

I needed to learn how to be assertive, badly. But before I could practice assertive discipline in the classroom, I had to be able to do it in life.

Most of what you will read in this site will follow the same basic principle: we do this job because we need to resolve unfinished business from the past, but before we can apply the skills we lack in the classroom, such as assertive discipline, we need to be able to apply them in our lives. What makes this site different is my focus on the inner game of teaching. We need to 'defeat' our inner opponent before we can tackle the outer ones. The same rule applies in sports such as tennis as in all of our personal development. As a teacher, if you are a naturally passive person trying to learn assertive discipline will take time and self-awareness. You will have to meet your inner opponent and face them head on.

Back to my journey and to how I discovered assertive discipline.

Like many teachers, I did well at school. Like many, I was subject to a certain amount of bullying. Hardly ever physical, just on the psychological level. Many years later I began to understand that my behavior as a child was passive and that many of my so-called 'friends' were aggressive. As an adult I began to learn and to teach the assertiveness triangle, which eventually led me to discover assertive discipline.

There are three positions on this triangle, with three different corresponding thought patterns. As individuals, we tend to habitually occupy one position. Either we are aggressive and walk around thinking; 'I'm great; you're not' or variations on this. In other words we may well be aware of our rights in every situation and we protect these but often at the expense of others rights. In schools you see bullying children and adults on a regular basis.

The second position is passive. These victims agree with the bullies and think; 'Yes, you're great and I'm not'. To this end they will give their rights away because on some level they do not feel that they can or should fight for them. As a teacher you will be familiar with children who seem to be picked on and as a teacher you may have experienced this yourself.

The third position is assertive. An assertive person thinks; 'I'm great, so are you'. Like the bully they have a keen understanding of their rights but unlike the victim they do not give them away but protect their own and the rights of others. Practicing assertive discipline for an assertive person will seem natural. For others, the process may be frightening at first.

It is alarming, as a young teacher, who may well have forgotten their own pupil persona, to be thrust back into it and to experience bullying, however subtle, from adults and pupils alike. If you are reading this site then I presume that you instinctively understand how this can happen early in your career and the necessity of learning and applying assertive behaviour and assertive discipline as soon as possible.

As a young teacher I got slaughtered by the kids. I tried to be their friend. I had no idea how to be assertive. I used the exact same tactics that I had learned as a kid with the same disastrous results.

What are my rights?

My Rights

Lets take a minute to define the concept of 'rights' when we are learning about assertive discipline.

When I began as a teacher I had little concept of my rights as a teacher in my classroom and my pupil's rights. As a result I gave my own rights away too easily as I hadn't yet learned how to be assertive. Once I began to practice assertiveness, one of the first things I did was to protect the following rights. I include them here with each previous bad habit:

• I have the right to insist on silence when I am speaking - I spoke over the noise of others

• I have the right to say 'no' - I allowed kids to move and to go to the toilet

• I have the right to criticize - I did not directly criticize the general behavior of specific children

• I have the right to keep you behind - I let things go

• I have the right to choose - I would be swayed by class pressure to do certain activities

• I have the right to set standards - I allowed individuals to dictate their own behavior boundaries

• I have the right to be proactive - I did not move people who should not be sat together.

Rights also come into play with colleagues too:

• I have the right to support - I did not always ask for support when I needed it.

• I have the right to eject a student - I felt that this reflected badly on me and so did not do it.

• I have the right to my opinion - I tended to put others views before my own.

You can see a picture developing which made my life very tough as a young teacher. To be honest I am painting a rather more extreme picture than the one you would have seen if you had walked into my classroom in the early days. I have always been able to create good rapport with young people even before I learned how to be assertive or to practice assertive discipline, but I am putting together a composite picture of my obvious failings.

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To truly practice assertive discipline, you need to learn to say 'No' and to give and recieve criticism effectively. To return home, click here.

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Status change on attaining NQT Not rated yet
During my Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) year, I was well aware of status, assertiveness and rights in the classroom, but because I was training, I didn't …

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