Personal Uncategorized

Are you a teacher or a trainer?

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” (Michelangelo)

If a kid does not do their homework and they get a detention, what do they learn from the detention?
If a kid gets yelled at and lectured in front of the class, what do they learn from that?
If the kid loses points because they forgot their homework, what do they really learn from that?
If a kid fails a test and has to have a silent lunch, what do they learn from that?

When a kid does something “inappropriate” in your class, do you teach them, or do you train them?
Do you coerce? Or do you guide?
Do you punish? Or assist?
Do you give them less interaction with you and peers? Or do you provide more support?
Do you tell them what to do? Or do you ask them why they did it?
Do you push them away to the corner? Or bring them in close?
Do they learn what to do? Or why to do it?
Do you assume you know why a kid did something? Or get the full story before reacting?
Do you make decisions based on emotions? Or do you wait until your head is clear?
Do you close your mind? Or open your heart?
Do you try to crush a spirit? Or rekindle one that is dying?
Do they learn what not to do? Or what they should do?

Training is easy. Teaching is hard.
Having a list of rules that applies to everyone is easy. Treating each kid as an individual is hard.
Having a consequence for an inappropriate behavior is easy. Finding what triggered the behavior is hard.
Yelling at a kid during class is easy. Taking them aside and speaking softly to them after class is hard.

Be careful when you discipline your kids. I know it is really, really hard to talk with them instead of disciplining them. It might take 50 times. But each one of those attempts will be better than coercive management. For advanced teachers I recommend something even more drastic. Pull the kid aside, make like you are going to talk to him but don’t. Just sit on your butt and listen. There is no more powerful classroom management tool in world than listening with an open mind. Never do anything that will damage your relationship with a child. If you do, you can sit down and listen all you want, but you won’t hear anything.

Train your dog, teach you kids.

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” (Michelangelo)


  1. Thank you for pointing out such crucial differences between teaching and training! I was reminded once that “discipline” comes from the word “disciple” and that it means to lead or to guide, not to punish or tear down. You can see the lights go out in a student’s eyes when you start barking at them or scolding, and they shut down and shut you out. At that point, there is no learning, either academically or behaviorally. Respect and kindness – along with firm limits and reasonable expectations – are the best ways to manage classroom behavior.

  2. Paul, I think we’ve talked about the idea that I do train my students as if they were my dog (who I love dearly and who is very well-behaved and comes to school with me too). I think you make some excellent points…I won’t disagree with the poetry you’ve written.

    And I don’t think my style is perfect by any means. I think each person needs to find a balance for their own personality. I’m harsh with my students, and I won’t shrink from that fact. But I also am very loving and generous beyond what I’ve observed with other teachers as well.

    I find that a balance of breaking them of bad habits and then building their esteem back has been very effective for nearly all my students. I don’t hold grudges and I am their loudest and most enthusiastic cheerleaders when they’re growing.

    And I’m the same with my dog. Natural consequences earned, ugly as they may be, then a ‘debriefing’ and lessons learned later.

  3. You make some good points above.
    However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
    Go to:

    If you get this book and video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems, [they are in many libraries, so you don’t have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and the video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

    [I also teach an online course on these issues that may be helpful to you at: ]

    If you cannot get the book or video, email me and I will try to help.
    Best regards,


    Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
    Professor Emeritus,
    City Univ. of New York

    Prof. Seeman

  4. I totally agree that there is a big difference between training and teaching. I try to deal with most discipline issues myself by talking to the student, and then the parent if I need to. I probably only fill out about two referrals to the office each year so when the administrators get it, they know that I’ve reached the end of my rope. I am too much of a control freak and feel that if I have to send my students to the office, that I am admitting that I am not in control. I don’t like the message that sends to the students and their parents so I try to avoid it all costs. But that is just me.

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