Discipline Is More a Challenge in Public Schools

During my 40 years as a K-12 classroom educator, I have taught in both the public and private school environments. I began my teaching career in 1969 as a physical education teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools System.

In the fall of 1970, my family and I moved to Wheeling and fell in love with the upper Ohio Valley. But more importantly, I had the privilege to teach at Wheeling Central Catholic High School and for the Ohio County Schools System the remainder of my tenure as a professional educator.

I was truly blessed. At Central, I was assigned to teach reading and language arts. During that period in my professional career, I was under the dominion of the Maroon Knights’ iconic principal, Dr. Joseph Viglietta. Now there was a man who loved kids and was always dedicated to preparing them for bright futures. It was a pleasure working for “Doc” and teaching at Wheeling Central.

Then I moved on to the Ohio County Schools System. My first and last school assignment was at Warwood Junior High School, now Warwood School, where I was again associated with superior administrators.

I will never forget the total devotion Principal James Monderine had not only to the students but also to the community of Warwood. Furthermore, he always supported me regarding any thoughts I had on promoting reading instruction in the school. When Mr. Monderine departed, I was again blessed with three more outstanding principals: Mary Kay Reisinger, Weldon Yoder, and Andy Garber. They were the best.

As parents, you should be quite pleased with the educational opportunities your children have regarding private and public schools in Ohio County, be it Wheeling Park High School, Wheeling Central Catholic High School, or Linsly School. The administration and teachers do an excellent job at all three institutions. Whichever school you choose, you can’t go wrong. Yes, we are all blessed in the Wheeling area with the fine education our children can receive in both our public and private school sectors.

With that being said, what one should never do is attempt to compare private schools with public schools. They are both completely different educational settings.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have had to listen to uninformed people “bad month” public schools throughout my teaching tenure. It’s like a broken record: “Private schools have much better discipline than public schools.” I admit they have a point, but to use a cliche, they truly are comparing apples to oranges.

At this juncture, let me set the record straight in reference to why there is a difference between private schools and public schools when it comes to student discipline problems. It is based on personal experiences as a teacher for four decades. So, if you wish to rebut what you are about to read, please make sure you do your homework.

Which educational arena has the most classroom discipline problems – private or public schools? This is a very easy question to answer. Of course, public schools have more discipline problems in the classroom. Does this mean private schools are superior in reference to classroom control?

Absolutely not!

Keep in mind, parents of private school students tend to be more affluent, highly educated, and take their children’s education very serious, stressing the importance of succeeding in school. Regarding affluence, they have the financial resources to send their children to private schools. This is a luxury that parents who are at lower income levels cannot afford.

Likewise, private schools get to pick and choose which students are allowed to attend their institutions. Moreover, if a student is a continual discipline problem in the classroom, he or she can be permanently expelled from the school.

On the other hand, public schools, by law, must accept students from all walks of life. In other words, these are students from various family backgrounds and social-economic environments.

While the vast majority of parents are very concerned about their children’s public school education, you also have a small segment of parents who couldn’t care less about their children’s education – even think it is a waste of time. It is children of these parents who generally are the troublemakers and discipline problems in the classroom.

Thus, classroom management is a much greater concern for public school teachers. They have to deal with problem students on a daily basis, knowing that only under extreme circumstances will such incorrigible kids be expelled permanently from school.

Recently, I was talking to an outstanding secondary school educator who retired from an area public school system and is now teaching at a private secondary school. With a smile on his face, he informed me that his fellow private school teachers were in a frenzy over a major discipline problem in their classrooms. He laughingly said, “Bill, you’re not going to believe it. They were in an uproar because some of their students were chewing gum!”

Yes, indeed, public school teachers have a much greater challenge than private school educators when it comes to disciplinary situations in the classroom. Furthermore, they do a great job in dealing with this unpleasant aspect of public school teaching. At the same time, our public school teachers are producing just as many future community leaders as their private school counterparts do.

And that’s a fact!

Dr. Bill Welker’s professional biography was profiled in the 7th Edition of “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.” This honor was especially gratifying to Dr. Welker since it was a former student who nominated him. Upon retiring in 2009, he was selected as a “Teacher of the Year” by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. Welker is also a nationally recognized authority on amateur wrestling.