Teaching Discipline & Self-Respect: Effective Strategies, Anecdotes, and Lessons for Successful Classroom Management


SiriNam S. Khalsa

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  • Dedication

    To my wife, Kirn Kaur, and our children, Karta Kaur, Dharam Bir Singh, and Ananda, who have given me the gift of living to my highest values


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    SiriNam S. Khalsa is a special education teacher in the inner city public schools of Springfield, Massachusetts, and his innovative, nurturing style of leading children to learning has garnered him a number of worthy accolades. I first met him when I was a judge in the competition for the 2004 State Teacher of the Year, and from the moment he entered the room, I was struck by how exciting and charismatic he was. He spoke of his students with earnestness, caring, and fervent passion, and I could tell immediately that his classroom must be a marvelous place for children to learn. It was vividly apparent that Mr. Khalsa is supremely dedicated to making sure that all of his pupils, no matter how troubled or initially difficult to manage, would be offered the chance to improve their skills, expand their knowledge, and improve their lives.

    With the publication of Teaching Discipline & Self-Respect: Effective Strategies, Anecdotes, and Lessons for Successful Classroom Management, Khalsa has offered the teaching public a clear and lively manual in how to make discipline—often the bane of the educator's existence—a less overwhelming aspect of our job. While much has already been written on this subject, Teaching Discipline & Self-Respect is a concise and highly readable presentation of the essence of the issues. He emphasizes the vital importance of mutual respect between teacher and student and is an ardent champion of what I like to call democracy in the classroom. Some of our colleagues may wince at such a term, thinking it implies some pedagogical anarchy where teacher authority is crushed, students vote to determine grades, and where violent chaos reigns supreme. Khalsa and I would submit, however, that there is a vast array of behavior problems that can be neutralized by the transformation of the teacher-student relationship from a master-servant design to a much more collegial, cooperative partnership. Teaching Discipline & Self-Respect offers numerous ways of accomplishing this, from poignant anecdotes to specifically detailed outlines. In a time when much has been said and written about declining test scores and increasing dropout rates, Khalsa proposes ways to remedy these trends. He shows us how teachers can—with patient nurturance and unconditional respect—knock down the bastilles of student apathy. Khalsa gives inspiring advice on how to build barricades between our children and the pernicious forces of underachievement, crime, and drugs.

    In these days filled with discourse about how educational paradise can be reached through high-stakes standardized tests, SiriNam Khalsa has offered solutions to our country's problem that are realistic, optimistic, and full of promise.

    Jeffrey R.Ryan, PhD, History Teacher, Reading Memorial High School, Reading, MA


    My gratitude to all the difficult students I have ever taught (and will continue to teach). They have helped me to gain the skills necessary for teaching discipline. Earlier in my teaching career, I might have been a little unusual because I always wanted to teach students who were having difficulties with their learning and behavior. There were days when I would go home frustrated and upset, wondering how I could connect with and teach certain students who seemed to be beyond reach. There were also those days when I felt defeated because the students took over the classroom and little or no learning was accomplished. But I was determined to figure out how it was done, and fortunately realized that, just like learning in content areas, it isn't enough to simply tell students what you want them to know. I needed to teach behavior. My motivation to be successful with and empathetic toward those who were experiencing failure kept me focused on seeking ways in which I could have a positive impact on the students I taught.

    Teaching a classroom full of difficult students is a gratifying experience nowadays. I am reminded of this every time I have an opportunity to coteach or to do demonstration teaching. The difference now is that, over a long period of time, I have acquired a set of effective skills and strategies. I was exposed to these skills through a variety of workshops and seminars, but most important as a result of having the opportunity to work with some very dedicated and talented people who possessed these skills. Some of these people taught children and others educated adults. During the time I spent with these people, I learned and absorbed valuable beliefs and lessons about how to relate to teaching discipline.

    I am thankful to Dr. Joel Levine, school psychologist and author. Joel and I worked closely together for several years in a classroom that incorporated many of the cooperative learning and social skill strategies I now use and teach. Joel has a strong belief in the power of being respectful, empathetic, and professional with all students and parents. He helped me to acknowledge the importance of these values in my work with others.

    Willette Johnson, former principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School and present administration coach in Springfield, Massachusetts, always supported me and continues to do so. She is a positive role model for administrators and educators who believe in the power of education, spirit, and perseverance. Mrs. Johnson also accompanied me when I was fortunate to receive teaching awards during our work together at John F. Kennedy Middle School.

    I didn't learn how to teach discipline on my own, and did not think of all of these strategies on my own. My sincere thanks go to all of you—and you know who you are—who have contributed to my growth as an educator over the last twenty-five years. Thank you to all of my early inspirations, including Madeline Hunter and Jack Canfield, and all the coteachers and colleagues who shared my desire to learn how to reach and teach all children. They helped me to feel the freedom necessary to develop the skills offered in this book.

    My spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, who recently passed away, continues to be a “teacher of teachers.” His guidance and clarity of purpose gave me inspiration and an understanding of how being a teacher looks, feels, and acts. I'm also thankful to my grandfather, Nunno Frank, who was my first mentor and who, in his loving way, advised me to become a teacher because it was a “noble profession.” His advice was well taken.

    Thank you, Nate Schiel, for sharing your special artistic talents and desire to support the quality of my book's presentation.

    Thank you to Kathie Skinner, director of professional development, and all my fellow professional development associates at the Massachusetts Teaching Association for giving me the opportunity to share many of these teaching skills with other educators and paraeducators in our public schools.

    I always admired the work Corwin Press did in offering quality books for professional educators. A final thanks to the staff at Corwin Press, and specifically Robert D. Clouse, editorial director; Allyson Sharp and Kylee Liegl, acquisitions editors; Nadia Kashper, editorial assistant; Melanie Birdsall, production editor; and the rest of the staff who were involved in supporting this book's production.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Michelle Barnea
    • Early Childhood Educational Consultant
    • Millburn, NJ
    • Cathern Wildey
    • Secondary Language Arts Teacher
    • Holiday, FL
    • Chuck Perkins
    • Consulting Teacher Explorer Academy
    • South Kitsap School District
    • Port Orchard, WA
    • Patrick Larkin
    • Principal
    • Peabody Veterans Memorial High School
    • Peabody, MA
    • Eileen Wascisin
    • Business Teacher
    • Lynden High School
    • Lynden, WA
    • Tammy Schoen
    • English Teacher
    • Coral Glades High School
    • Coral Springs, FL
    • Gwendolyn Quinn
    • Assistant Professor
    • University of South Florida
    • Tampa, FL
    • Kathie F. Nunley
    • Developer, Layered CurriculumTM Method of Instruction and Founder, http://Brains.org
    • http://Brains.org and http://Help4teachers.com
    • Amherst, NH

    About the Author

    SiriNam S. Khalsa, MSEd, NBCT, is a special education teacher, educational consultant, author, and National Board Certified Teacher. In his most recent position as Inclusion Coach, he supports the successful implementation of inclusive strategies in the middle and high schools of a large urban school district. He received a BS in Art Education and MSEd from the State University of New York at New Paltz. In addition to his work as Inclusion Coach with the Springfield, Massachusetts, public school system, he serves as a professional development consultant with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. He has received special recognition as 2002 Distinguished Teacher, as well as Massachusetts 1993 Special Education Teacher of the Year and most recently Massachusetts 2004 Teacher of the Year finalist.

    SiriNam has been featured in educational articles, most recently the National Education Association magazine, NEA Today (January 2004). In addition to writing Teaching Discipline & Self-Respect, he has authored several other educational books, including Differentiated Instruction: How to Reach and Teach All Students (2004), The Inclusive Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators (1999, 2005), Group Exercises for Social Skills and Self-Esteem, Volumes 1 and 2 (1996, 1999), and most recently Bullies in School: Interventions for Bullies and Victims (2007). The strategies offered in his books are taken from over twenty-five years of experience teaching and learning from his students and colleagues.

    SiriNam is married to Kirn Kaur Khalsa and is a proud father of three. He resides in Leverett, Massachusetts, with his family and can be reached by e-mail at sirinam1@rcn.com.

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    Corwin Press

    The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin Press is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin Press continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better”.

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