What makes a smart student

The problem:


The teachers are happy to share the best tips on how to "easily" establish discipline in the classroom. And trainee teachers and young professionals in particular eagerly take up these tips. Unfortunately, you quickly find out that the ultimate insider tip does not work for you. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that experienced teachers often rely primarily on strictness and on keeping the students on a "short leash" as possible. Inexperienced teachers then quickly notice that the students unfortunately do not respond to them.


In short: there is a lack of mutual respect. Anyone who then thinks they have to show their “strictness” and “short leash” by shouting in front of the class, exposing students or throwing them around with punishments will only make themselves ridiculous and lose the last bit of respect.

Therefore, all tips on the subject of "discipline" only work if the teacher has created a really respectful atmosphere beforehand, if he experiences real respect from the students and if the students treat each other with respect. Therefore, at the beginning of the consultation it is about respect - and only then about discipline.


There are a number of triggers for discipline problems that no teacher can change, for example: Certain general school conditions, such as overcrowded classrooms, a school climate characterized by fear and oppression, missing or too rigid school rules, a lack of mutual agreements (on how to deal with disorders). Random, very unfavorable learner group compositions, individual pupils with extremely difficult behavior or parents who are not willing to cooperate can push even the best teacher to his limits.

In most cases, however, there is an abundance of opportunities for teachers to instill discipline in the classroom - provided that the basis of mutual respect is right. Of course, “discipline in the classroom” does not mean cadaver obedience, fearful silence and the lack of happiness and creativity. Discipline simply means that all students (and of course also the teachers) adhere to meaningful, mutually accepted rules, for example:


  • report and wait until your turn

  • be in class on time,

  • speak softly during group and partner work,

  • Do homework,

  • do not call in during class discussions.

When are interventions effective?

In addition to the basic requirement of "respect", the following clarifications are required before the various possibilities for establishing discipline can become effective:


Explicit rules


It must be clear to everyone, understood and accepted by everyone, what the exact rules for working in the classroom are - and the consequences of non-compliance with the rules.


Sensible, accepted rituals


The disciplining function of rituals is that they usually appear wordless, that even small signals are sufficient to trigger extensive consequences. Examples of this are the hand signal mentioned below or the countdown.




Not every violation of the rules in the class has to be punished automatically. The wise educating teacher masters the balancing act between clear consistency and the ability to consciously ignore rule violations, just like a good referee to give "an advantage". To react immediately and possibly harshly to every rule violation makes little educational sense and does just as little to gain respect from the students as it makes no sense to rule violations not at all or - which amounts to almost the same thing - only with the same forever Admonitions, which ultimately remain inconsistent, to respond.

Because rule violations must have consequences, it does not go without penalties. Some teachers - especially young - find it difficult to imagine punishing their students. In fact, however, the students expect that rule violations are punished consistently, appropriately and fairly.

Both the teacher and the students must be clear before it "bangs" which penalties come into question and when. Penalties should never be imposed spontaneously. In a calm classroom setting, you should discuss what punishments are involved.

“Smart” penalties - natural consequences

Even the classics around Rudolf Dreykurs, for example, have avoided “punishments” - at least verbally. Instead, they prefer to speak of “logical” or “natural” consequences. What is meant by this is quite simply the principle "Whoever breaks something has to fix it", for example: Whoever comes too late at the beginning has to stay longer in the end, whoever makes something dirty has to clean it up, whoever takes something away, must replace those who prevent others from learning, must do something that makes their learning easier and, ultimately, also: those who show by permanent disruption that they are not taking part in the class can actually not take part in the class.

These penalties - they are rightly perceived as such - are mostly effective if they are used sparingly and with caution. For example, anyone who permanently “robs” devalues ​​this measure and robs it of its effect. The effectiveness of these “smart” punishments (“natural consequences”) is increased by the fact that they are very easy to justify and that they are often extremely uncomfortable for students.

Examples of such penalties:


  1. • Make up for missed lessons, e.g .: Write down lost time on the blackboard and make up for it at the end of the lesson or in the next lesson

  2. • Clean up the classroom or school room / playground

  3. • Prepare exercise material to prepare for class work for classmates ("cheat sheet")


Yellow / red card


There is no need to explain the yellow or red card. The big advantage is that the teacher can act calmly and non-verbally. Yellow card: final warning. The consequence of the red card must be clarified in advance. Any kind of “smart” punishment makes sense here. Only in extreme cases should it mean a “dismissal”.


Exclusion from class


Exclusion from class, or “expulsion”, can be an appropriate “natural consequence”, but should always be the last resort. Exclusion from lessons is particularly useful when students consistently do not respond to the teacher's admonitions, when they massively hinder other students in learning, when they receive inappropriate attention and consideration for non-constructive behavior or when they simply need a break, to calm down. So when students show that they cannot or do not want to take part in the class, the logical consequence is not to let them take part in the class.

In a few exceptional cases it can make sense to put a student in front of the class door at short notice (i.e. for 5 to 10 minutes). However, this is only possible if the teacher is sure that the student is keeping to the agreement to wait quietly in front of the door until the teacher takes him back to the classroom after 10 minutes at the latest.

It is better and more effective to isolate the disruptive student by sending him to a colleague's lesson (see above "isolating students") or - as is successfully practiced in some schools - to a "quiet room" supervised by a teacher ".

An exclusion from lessons can also be imposed in advance, for example exclusion from the next sports lesson.

Of course, in all cases in which they have been excluded from lessons, students are obliged to make up for what they have missed by means of appropriate written assignments. In physical education, for example, it makes sense for students who have been excluded from participation to sit on the bench and take a detailed record of the lesson.

More about this in the book: