Discipline as relationship and capacity building: the teacher as a socio-emotional classroom engineer

Through an interpretative approach, this study seeks to identify mechanisms to address disruptive behavior in the classroom and teach the whole child by strategically targeting the students’ academic, behavior, and socio-emotional needs. The research techniques employed in this study included individual interviews, participant observations, and a review of school documents. Findings are derived from the stories of ten high school teachers from a High School in California’s Central Valley. Data analysis revealed five main topics 1) teachers seek emotional connections with their students to construct a positive socio-emotional classroom environment 2) participants identified the importance of not labeling students as conflictive but as individuals experiencing conflictive situations, 3) teachers identified their lack of preparation to respond to socio-emotional issues in the classroom, 4) participants emphasized the importance of negotiating authority structures in the classroom, and 5) the importance of using intuition and creativity to create relational strategies that enrich the classroom environment. Themes derived from this study explain both the challenges and opportunities of success that teachers face when creating a positive socio-emotional classroom environment for all students. The results of this research carry important implications for the advancement of students’ socio-emotional development and the construction of healthy relationships between teachers and students.