To the editor:
In recent weeks I have read where the West Virginia State Board of Education plans to move our schools in a new direction. Hopefully, the changes will result in improved educational outcomes and translate into higher student achievement.
I'm presently retired after having spent nearly 30 years in administration at the elementary and middle school levels. As a school principal, I always believed both students and staff members needed to comply with reasonable, fair, firm and consistent disciplinary standards. I further believed that without adequate and effective control in both the classrooms and the school as a whole, the teaching-learning process was severely weakened and thus had a negative effect on academic success. Simply stated, weak disciplinary control adversely hampers the teaching-learning process and lessens the academic gains of students.
While in college preparing to secure my teacher and principal certifications, I never was required to take a mandatory or elective class on how to develop and implement an effective classroom management program designed to minimize classroom disruptions caused by inappropriate student behavior.
While visiting classrooms for teacher evaluation purposes, it was easy to differentiate between those teachers who had command and control of their classrooms and those who did not. It was also obvious that those teachers who demonstrated effective control also exhibited more efficient and effective teaching and learning results. Those teachers demonstrating inferior student and classroom control were not necessarily inadequate teachers, they merely lacked the know-how to deal with the situation.
While serving as principal at Follansbee Middle School, a number of my teachers and I took part in a teacher-training program titled "Assertive Discipline" by Lee Cantor. Without going into specifics, the program is designed to help teachers with student input, and to develop and activate an effective classroom management program.
Teachers discovered that establishing a few simple, common sense classroom rules greatly improved the classroom environment for teaching and learning. Those students who chose not to comply with the rules face reasonable consequences and soon learned what was expected of them.
This brings me to our state board of education and the new direction it plans to pursue. I would strongly encourage our state board to work with our state colleges and include a three-hour required course in the educational course of study, dealing with discipline and classroom management. This would be one simple and inexpensive way to enhance the teaching-learning process and better prepare future teachers.