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Discipline based on Proverbs 15

Every class must be taught the guidelines the teacher desires for that particular atmosphere.  Each class actually has its own personality. Each class must learn how to function as a family of new members.  Not all of them need to get along and be best friends at all times, but they must learn how to respect each other.  It is when individuals are being disrespected, that correction must take place.

It is the responsibility of the leader in the classroom – the teacher – to create, teach, implement and maintain the classroom guidelines, procedures and boundaries.  Keep in mind that sometimes a student will come in your class who has not had structured discipline at home, or in other classes.  You must only focus on the necessary behavior of the students in your classroom, with your guidelines and your procedures and routines.


Verse 1 – “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels.”  Many teachers and parents just don’t get this concept.  If we speak corrections quickly, concisely, in love with authority, in a soft manner, even privately, all parties are much better off.

Verse 2 – “A wise teacher makes learning a joy; a rebellious teacher spouts foolishness.”  Put on your good colored glasses (choose to see the good things, the good kids, the proper things that are being done and point them out and focus on them as you prepare) and come up with fun and rigorous lessons.  The deeper and more meaningful the lesson, the more students will get into it.  They really can’t stand nonsense, time wasting, non applicable, non-engaging and boring lessons, and worksheets with no true purpose etc.  Use your creativity to make meaningful lessons.

Verse 3 – “The Lord is watching everywhere and keeps His eye on both evil and good.” In other words – God sees everything. He knows what is going on and you are not the only one in the classroom.  I invite, consult with and take wisdom from God about my classes DAILY, as I cannot possibly see all that is going on in the classroom every day. I pray for my students, about my lesson plans and about certain issues that are taking place throughout the year.  I make it a point to pray about and listen to that still small voice and act on it by encouraging and offering extra help to certain students that are placed on my heart. It is important to do this often to maintain a positive and productive atmosphere in your classroom, or household. Verse 23 says – “everyone enjoys giving good advice, and how wonderful it is to say the right thing at the right time!”

Verse 4 – “Gentle words cause life and health; griping brings discouragement.” This is another statement of the importance of not getting loud and angry and losing control in your classroom/home. When teachers and parents get grumpy or discouraged, we have a tendency to begin complaining.  When this happens sometimes we don’t come out of it.  We begin blaming and bring down the entire atmosphere by constantly griping.  What this scripture says is that we must find words to put into and release out of our mouths, of life and health – in other words – build them up.  Tell them what they can be, how they should act in order to be respected in this world, and what possibilities they have for their futures if they will take the proper steps and care for other people. Sometimes just a re-directing of their behavior with a question will help them get back on track.  “Billy, What did we all agree Respect looks like in this room?” “Billy, How does that action/what you just said, line up with our policy of respect in this class?”

Verse 5 – “Only fools despise a fathers advice (this could be teachers, mothers, etc.); a wise child considers each suggestion.”  When we give advice, sometimes young people will roll their eyes, suck their teeth, look away etc.  That is acting foolishly.  I would not say to them that they are a fool, but I would say “be careful not to act foolishly or disrespectfully.” “I always show respect you, so I expect the same in return.” “If you need to talk with me, I am more than willing to meet with you.” I would also encourage them that a wise student will consider my advice.  I get up every day to help other peoples’ children become the very best people they can be.  I am here for them.  I let them know that.  I am constantly working on me too, but I am getting paid to help them reach their goals for their lives. If I correct them, it is because of my love for them as a teacher, student relationship.  ALL OF US MUST BE WILLING TO BE CORRECTED IF WE WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL.  A person, who will not accept correction and only does what they want, is considered rebellious and will not grow.

On this note, the best coaches and teachers are the ones who ask appropriate and timely questions, rather than always telling the student something.  When you ask questions, especially carefully planned and appropriate ones, it makes the person self-reflect and really think about things instead of always feeling as though they are being lectured. I would do this behind the scenes in a teacher/student conference, maybe even while walking them to their next class if possible.

Re-Directing by Questioning
“What could you have done differently to get better results?”
“You brought this problem public in front of the entire class.  Is there any way you could you have resolved this with the person in question and me outside of the class?”  “How did your actions effect the entire class?” “Shouldn’t this room be a place where we all feel safe and come to learn?”
“After thinking about a different way to resolve the problem, would you like to have had the chance to do it differently?”
“Let’s think of what you could do next time that would not involve disrespecting so many people?”
“By doing things like you just did, you broke my trust in you.  How do you think you can begin to gain that back again?”
“Do you think you ca apologize for your actions and begin to repair the relationship?”
“What alternative ways can you approach the same problem when it comes up again in the future?”
“How can you work on yourself so you are more pleasant when you are speaking with others?”
“What can you do instead of lashing out at others, when you get angry?”
“Is there any civil and peaceful way you could resolve a problem rather than being violent with your mouth, or your hands?”
“What are your goals in life? How did this action help you reach your goals? How did this action help you build the status you want with others?”

Verse 28 says – “A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought.” All of us have had teachers/coaches, or even parents, who spewed out some evil words before thinking.  It can cause damage for a life-time.  Whoever came up with the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was a fool.  The exact opposite is actually true.  I am sure that there are plenty of people (even some who have committed suicide) who would rather have been injured, or had a broken bone rather than live with some of the things that were said to them by important people in their lives.  Some people let words gnaw on them for a life-time.  We must always try to be people who build others up. Find nice things to say to others that will make them want to be around you rather than avoid you at all costs.

Verse 6 – “There is treasure in being good, but trouble dogs the wicked.” God wants us to focus on being good decent, productive and loving people.  When we are not, and we act inappropriately, we are always surrounded by problems and troubles. Verse 15 confirms this by saying – “When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems right!”  Our attitude is so important!

Verse 7 – “Only the good can give good advice. Rebels can’t.” I changed my way of treating other peoples’ children after I had my own kids.  I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t want people to treat my kids the way I treat other peoples’ kids.” That really changed me.  Would you – teacher/parent – want to be treated like you treat others, or, would you want your children to be treated like you treat others? When we take advice from wise people, we ourselves become better people.  Surround yourself with good people and you will become more like them.

Verse 8 – “The Lord hates the gifts of the wicked, but delights in the prayers of His people.” We must never think we can do this thing called life on our own.  There is a creator who is much wiser than us.  He gave us an instruction manual and many people to help us live a very prosperous, successful and productive life.  We must speak with him continuously so we can stay on track.  We must also get together with others in our area of discipline so we can share our thoughts.  That is how life was planned.  We should never be an island unto ourselves.  Go to the Father and pray to Him. He delights in your prayers!

Verse 18 – “A quick-tempered man starts fights; a cool-tempered man tries to stop them.” We must reflect on all of the benefits of being cool-tempered.  Students should be able to come to us to help them think through, and resolve problems so they can avoid fights.  I tell them to always try to “take the high road” and avoid fights at all costs.  There is usually another way.  When a student comes to me with a problem with another student, I always ask them if I can speak with the other student, and not let them know that we have spoken. I assure them that I will not say their name, but rather say “I heard that you were having a problem with …” “Is there any way I might be able to help you all out?” “Is there something we can do to resolve this in a calm and peaceful manner?” “Can I meet with the both of you and see what we can work out together?” Most of the time, the kids really do want to work something out – they just have to have a mature mediator and do this privately – not in front of others.

Verse 30 – “Pleasant sights and good reports give happiness and health.”   This is the good colored glasses I like to speak of when talking with discouraged teachers.  Especially when things are not going well, we must make a conscious decision to put on a different pair of glasses – ones that only see and hear good things in our students.  We must strive to find all of the good in an individual, a group of people, or an entire class.  Don’t just see or hear them and keep it to yourself, but take the time and effort to point them out.  Most of the time, they will be encouraged and try even harder to please you.  I heard of a research project that used a couple of teachers to see how they would respond to their brand new classes.  One teacher was told that her class was made up of high achieving students who were bright, intelligent and hard-working.  The other was told that her classes were tough, low achievers and won’t work well for her.  The trick was that the teacher who was told her class was great was really the low level achievers and the teacher who was told her classes were low, were the higher achievers. The bottom line of the story was that they produced the type of class they were told they had.  Often it is OUR OUTLOOK on our students/children that determines the outcome of their results.  We must focus on the positive and have them rise to those standards and expectations.

Verses 31-32 – “If you profit from constructive criticism you will be elected to the wise men’s hall of fame.  But to reject criticism, is to harm yourself and your own best interests.” If we want to be wise we must be willing to take criticism, correction and even sometimes rebuke if necessary.  I tell my students that I must be able to teach and have them grow in our subject every day – that is our purpose for being here each day.  Do not ever get in the way of that. Never disrespect me, another student, a substitute who is trying to help our class while I am gone, a parent volunteer, or an administrator.  It is important that they understand the value of respect toward all people.  We are all here to help them reach their goals for their lives and respect will help them get there much faster.

With that train of thought and outlook on classroom management, they must give me the license to give them constructive criticism, and sometimes correction. I only rebuke (which is a strong correction) when they are on the verge of danger, or are publicly disrespecting someone.  I am here for them, and I constantly remind them of that.  We only grow when we are put in situations where we are not good at something and we are pressured to do better.  This is good pressure – pressure that helps them become better than they previously were prior to that situation.

Students must be willing to have pressure put on them and know that there will be some criticism and correction for their good.  It is because we really want them to grow and prosper that we put them in these situations. If they know this up front, they are more likely to accept it from you.

There are many other verses in a proverbs 15 that we did not get to, but I challenge teachers and parents to teach kids with these types of guidelines and watch how well the students learn.  I always instruct teachers to work on themselves first, and then the students.  It is I that have to change the most.  Until I really know my classroom procedures, routines and guidelines, I can never begin to think that the kids will clearly understand them.  All of my guidelines are for their benefit, not “rules” to keep them oppressed and under my control.  Education should be fun, engaging and clearly constructed with thought and purpose behind all instruction.  We should strive to create an atmosphere where kids want to be.

I hope this lesson from Proverbs will help you begin to see your classes through different colored glasses.

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Jim Matthews

About Jim Matthews

Jim Matthews is a veteran band director of 30 years at Jackson Middle School in Titusville, FL. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Florida State University. His bands continuously received superior ratings at band festivals. The bands have received the Florida Bandmaster’s Association Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty and Twenty-five Year Superior Awards for continuous Superior ratings. He is presently the Brevard County Music Instructional Coach for all secondary band directors. Jim co-founded the FLBandWorkshop for band directors held each summer in Titusville. It is a hands-on, in-depth workshop. For more information see FLBandWorkshop on FaceBook. He is a member of Florida Bandmaster’s Association, Music Educator’s National Conference and Phi Beta Mu – an International Honorary Band Director’s Fraternity. He is also a National Board Certified Teacher in music. For more information, see the About section.