How can I maintain a disciplined classroom with students from undisciplined homes?


Hilary Martin taught in Anabaptist schools for ten years. She is currently secretary at Shalom Mennonite School in Terre Hill, PA.

Esther King is a teacher and cook at Tidings of Peace Christian School in York, PA.

Brian Martin is the director of Allegany Boys’ Camp in Oldtown, MD. This video contains excerpts from his presentation “Working with Generation iY” given at REACH 2017. For a recording of the full presentation, visit Christian Learning Resource.

Hilary: I think when students see that you expect, then they will respect. Esther: As a classroom teacher, there’s a great opportunity for you to set a culture, to set expectations in the classroom. Brian: We need to have rules, we need to not back away from this idea that boundaries are important. We can expect the children we work with to test our boundaries. Hilary: Students, no matter what class they might face before they walk into school, they can fulfill those expectations that you set for them. There are a few, there are exceptions to that, I have experienced that. Brian: In some cases depending on a situation, it doesn’t matter so much what the boundaries are, it just matters that you have them. Esther: Especially in their first week, I attempted to go over my expectations every day. Brian: They’re going to push those boundaries, it doesn’t matter where you set that line, and it’s going to go back and forth and sometimes they’ll cross your line and go way outside and you got to go bring them back in, but set boundaries. It’s okay to have rules. Our culture is one that doesn’t have rules or boundaries or standards. I think it’s important that we set boundaries. Esther: For them to see that you’re serious about this and that you’re going to hold to your word. Hilary: Quietly ask for respect and you will get it. Brian: Expect them to cross your lines and then you just have an opportunity to teach some more when those rules are broken. As a child grows and becomes older, you open up those boundaries and give a little more freedom. Hilary: In enforcing classroom expectations, there’s a firmness that comes with it that I didn’t always enjoy, but I knew that if I didn’t keep that, then it will become loose and students just wouldn’t rise to your expectations then. Brian: It’s really a spiritual issue to learn to stay inside the boundaries. Esther: I love the idea of a team. As a team at school and whatever different personalities that come in, whatever different home situations they come in and we can become a part of that team and they can fulfill those expectations. Hilary: Students thrive on consistency and structure.When they see that, they feel safe and in that safety, there’s security and their performance and their relationships. When you can keep that firmness then you can also be fun and incorporate different and creative ways of teaching without things getting out of hand.

Sign in to rate this resource.

Pass it on:

Lucas Hilty

7 years ago

This is a good question. I suppose we would need to know how Brian intended it to be applied. I heard this as referring to the importance of a disciplined classroom and home, regardless of the specifics of the rules. There is more than one good way, for instance, to handle students’ requests for bathroom/water breaks. Whatever your rule on this, it is key to be consistent with the rules you’ve set. As a parent, I connected with this, since I often see other families choosing rhythms and rules different from ours. I need the reminder that it is more important to give children a sense of stability and order than it is to find exactly the right way to do things.On the other hand, Anita’s comment is a good corrective. Our rules ought to be based on justice and love, not on a desire to control at all costs.

Anita Yoder

7 years ago

“In some situations, it doesn’t matter so much what the boundaries are. It just matters that you have them.” Rules for the sake of rules sounds like power-mongering or an abuse of power to me. What am I missing?

Leave a Reply


Leave Feedback