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'Well Begun is Half Done': A School Wide Project for Better Discipline

Thomas McDaniel

Starting the year on the 'right foot' is the key to effective classroom discipline. Obviously, of course, naturally - now tell us something new. Well, what's new is that a school can indeed design an in service beginning-of-the-year project that makes a difference in attitudes and actions for teachers, students, and administrators. I want to describe an unusually successful project in school discipline at a small elementary school in Greenwood, South Carolina.
The principal of Mathews Elementary asked me to work with her and her entire staff to establish a better climate, more positive attitudes, and more effective management in a school that draws heavily from a lower socio-economic mill village population. I met with the thirty teachers (and aides) in the late Spring to hear their concerns and spent a few minutes in each classroom to get a feel for problems and the approaches of teachers. Problems? Student apathy, discourtesy, loudness, fighting, cheating, stealing, classroom chatter - the usual list. Approaches? Teachermade negative rules, prohibitions, punishments, threats, and yelling - the usual list.
The principal and I decided that we would devote three full morning sessions to working with the staff just prior to the beginning of school in late August; these sessions would be followed by three days of observation by me as soon as classes began. The three pre-school sessions focused on principles and practices of classroom discipline.

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