Classroom Discipline: The Art of Positive Language

Book Summary

Edwardo The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World

Evaluating classroom discipline techniques is always a challenge. This book takes a look on the effect these techniques can have on children. When the book begins, Edwardo is an ordinary boy getting ready for school. Soon, adults are telling him he is rough, noisy, a bully, and cruel. This continues and escalates as the book progresses. Edwardo does something, and he is labeled as "the cruelest boy in the whole wide world" or the "horriblest boy in the whole wide world". The book shows Edwardo beginning to live up to the labels being given to him. Finally, someone points out something nice that Edwardo does. His actions turn around and more nice comments come his way. By the end of the book, he has transformed into the "nicest boy in the whole wide world".

Talking to Your Students

When you read this book for the first time, it really makes you stop and think about this boy and how the words he hears affect him. When adults continually tell children they are worthless or bad, they often tend to believe it. They hear these low expectations and opinions and figure, why bother? Everyone thinks I am bad, so I might as well act that way.

If you have students who challenge you, it is often difficult to find a way to address the situation. The key is to condemn the behavior or action and not the child. In the book Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, the adults in Edwardo’s life do just the opposite. When he would chase a cat, he was told he was "the cruelest boy in the whole wide world". Instead, the adult should have said "chasing cats is not kind and it upsets the animal". Condemn the act, not the child.

Troubled children often hear only negative comments from the adults in their life. No one expects them do be any better. Edwardo is always being told how bad he is, and his behavior escalates as the book progresses. In the classroom, a student who receives constant nagging from adults and fellow classmates often feels like there is no reason for the behaviors to change. No one expects the child to be good. Setting high expectations for your students can make a difference. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out all of your tried and true classroom discipline techniques and can’t point out actions that are unsafe or disruptive. It is not a free for all….do what you want and the teacher will say nice things. However, once in awhile, try and catch that child being good. It may take time and vigilance on your part. Even if it is something small like noticing that he has his pencil ready and sharpened in the morning. Or the child walked to get in line when he normally runs. Pointing out the good will bring out more good. Just like Edwardo, once a child begins to realize that others see some good in him, he may start to see it in himself.