This is part 1 in a series reviewing Laurie Boyd‘s Beyond Classroom Management: Building Your Schoolwide Discipline System. 

Boyd starts by detailing her background–she started off as a struggling classroom teacher and became a principal of a school with a wildly effective discipline system, reducing the number of suspension days from 4,000 to 400. (Let’s stop and marvel at this just for one moment. Not the reduction, but just the sheer number of suspension days happening at the school when she took over–in a 180-day school year, that’s an average of 22 full-day student suspensions every day!) That can’t have been an exciting tidbit to learn about the school you’re about to take over …

Boyd states that the majority of teachers who leave the profession say they do so because of lack of administrative support or student behavior problems (I suspect there is a lot of overlap between the two…). She chides administrator preparation programs for lacking proper attention to creating effective schoolwide discipline programs (guilty as charged, at least in my small sample of experience).

Here’s an interesting point from her introduction:

A leader’s work on building climate, on operational procedures, and on intervention programs is never finished.

It seems like so many school leaders think of discipline as something they have to “take care of” before they get to the good stuff–instructional leadership, professional learning, etc. But if we accept Boyd’s point that the work of a leader on schoolwide discipline will never truly be “taken care of” or “squared away,” we come to one inevitable point: if you want this job, you better damn sure enjoy creating and maintaining schoolwide discipline programs, because you will certainly never outrun this aspect of the work. (Boyd makes an equivalent point later in the book–that teachers have to learn to love classroom management as much as they love English, history, earth science, etc.)

Boyd then goes on to tackle some well-traveled but “erroneous” ideas about schoolwide behavior.

1: The visibility of the administrator is necessary for teachers to feel confident about student discipline.

This is an easy trap to fall into, but the simple fact is if it takes an administrator’s physical presence to manage an area of the school, that area can be managed only for as long as that administrator can stand there for. How realistic is that?

2: If teachers’ lessons were engaging enough, they would not have problems with classroom behavior.

Here’s another one that a lot of us have probably said in the past regarding teachers with weak classroom management. But Boyd says  (rightly, I believe) that no teacher can possibly captivate every student every minute of the day regardless of what else is going on in their lives. (That’s not to say engaging instruction and effective management aren’t related–they are. There’s just more to it than that.)

Boyd’s essential points here are:

  • managing schoolwide discipline never ends, so get good at it, get used to it, and learn to love it
  • engaging teachers and “present” administrators aren’t enough; you need a system

I’ll jump into Boyd’s system in later posts on this book…

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