School discipline

From Academic Kids

Template:Message box School discipline is a form of discipline found in schools.

The term refers to students complying with a code of behaviour often known as the school rules. Among other things these rules may set out the expected standards of clothing, timekeeping, social behaviour and work ethic. The term may also be applied to the punishment that is the consequence of transgression of the code of behaviour. For this reason the usage of school discipline sometimes means punishment for breaking school rules rather than behaving within the school rules.

Generally, aim of school discipline is (in theory at least) to create a safe and happy learning environment in the classroom. A classroom where a teacher is unable to maintain order and discipline can lead to lower achievement by some students and unhappy students.

The enforcement of discipline in schools can, however, be motivated by other non-academic, often moral objectives. For example, a traditional British public school usually has a strong underlying Christian ethic, and enforces strong discipline outside the classroom as well as in it, which applies particularly to boarders. Duties can include compulsory chapel attendance, sport participation, meal attendance, conformation to systems of authority within "houses", strongly controlled bed-times and restricted permission to leave the school grounds. Such duties can be stringently enforced, formerly by corporal punishment, and more recently by curtailment of freedoms and privileges (e.g. gatings, detentions), and by punishments administered by senior pupils on more junior ones (this last form tends to be the harshest and most arbitrary form of discipline, and even in modern times can include practices such as forced prolonged exercise to the point of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and has been known in extreme cases lead to severe abuse). Such systems of discipline are often deliberately arbitrary, working on the philosophy that purely reasonable rules are inherently logical and therefore open to question and debate. The conservative elements inherent in traditional religious schools often demand full and unquestioning, instinctive respect for and adherence to rules, and an atmosphere of complete obedience, which necessitates a universal, rigorously enforced system of discipline.

Western move away from corporal punishment

Historically school discipline centered on corporal punishment methods such as smacking and the use of the cane. In modern times, the main emphasis of a discipline policy has shifted to positive reinforcements such as praise, merit marks, house points and the like. The use of violent methods of punishment in order to enforce discipline has been seen as inappropriate by modern educators. Non-violent methods are still used however when school rules are broken. These include detentions, suspensions and ultimately expulsion of the student from the school.

Group Punishment

One of the most common methods of school disipline is the controversial group punishment philosophy. It occurs when a few students do something that is considered bad by a school's teachers and as a result the entire group (or class) of students is punished.

This most often happens for minor infractions, such as a number of students continuing to talk out of turn when the teacher is attempting to gain order. When the teacher is unsuccessful, he/she will usually take action such as curtailing or eliminating recess (at the elementary school level) or delaying dismissal from class for a couple minutes (to reduce passing time). Rarely does it entail assigning after-school detention to the entire class. The punishment is usually carried out after a series of threats goes unheeded.

This can also happen if a major infraction of school rules occurs (for example, vandalism) but the students involved do not own up to it. If this happens, a group of students may be punished until (or unless) the person responsible confesses.

In both instances, this is generally a very unfair punshment, since students who did not misbehave are also punished.

Methods for obtaining good discipline

The most important aspect of good discipline in a classroom is teacher assertiveness. A good teacher who is assertive will:

  • Set clear boundaries as to what is and is not appropriate behavior.
  • Assigns appropriate, progressive discipline for students who break the rules (for minor offenses such as talking out of turn, usually starting with warnings which outlines future consequences; followed by more severe punishments such as student-teacher conferences, loss of privileges, detention and/or referral to the principal, etc.).
  • When asking a student to correct a violation of the rules in front of the class, it is done in a way to cause minimal embarassment.
  • When the teacher calls a conference with the student, it is done so privately. There, the teacher will calmly but firmly discuss the infraction, sometimes allowing the student to explain his/her side of the story, outlying future expectations and what could result upon future offenses. The private meeting is conducted to prevent embarassment and to keep the matter between the concerned parties (a teacher sometimes will have to remind curious students, however).
  • If the teacher wishes to discuss circumstances surrounding misbehavior (such as making an offensive joke), he/she does so in a way not to make an example out of the offending student but to allow students to learn from the situation so they do not repeat the misbehavior.
  • Applies the punishments fairly and to suit the circumstances. They are not influenced by factors such as how popular the student is, academic standing or if he/she was guilty of unrelated offenses in the past.

Assertive teachers who use these methods are often perceived as "fair" by the children, have a calm, orderly atmosphere and achieve the desired academic results.

On the other hand teachers who are not assertive tend to have variable boundaries, such as:

  • Ignoring a particular offense one day and then blowing up in rage at the same behavior the next day.
  • Assigning rash, inappropriate punishments that either do not fit the offense (such as a long detention for a student whispering a brief comment to a friend), or more rarely, punishing students who were guilty of nothing at all.
  • Allowing "good" students to get away with offenses that "bad" pupils are punished for.

It must be noted that even good, assertive teachers have their bad days or are put in difficult situations (e.g., having to manage an unruly class where students have no intention of learning), and all teachers will have to deal with incidents in which immediate action e.g., fighting or vandalism is required.

However, an unassertive teacher's disciplinary methods often creates a frantic, uneasy classroom atmosphere, which usually leading to the teacher being disliked by the pupils and less learning being achieved. In some cases, this leads to the teacher's conference with the principal.

Flaws in school discipline

School discipline is usually achieved through hierarchy. In schools, there is almost always a hierarchy, where administrators and teachers are at the top and the students are at the bottom.

For example, if a teacher uses the words "shut up" to get the student be quiet, the student will probably comply and the teacher even though he/she may be guilty of poor tact will probably get away with it. However, if a student says "shut up" to the teacher, the student could face at least a detention as well as the possibility of parent/teacher conferences, embarrassment in front of other students and lecturing by the teachers.

The fact that all of this could happen to a student if he/she is rude and none of this would happen to a teacher for the same offense adds a level of unfairness to school discipline in schools all over the world.

At the very least, a teacher who tells a student to "shut up" may be in for a conference with the principal (to discuss alternate ways to obtain order or get a student to obey a request to be quiet); however, unless there had been complaints about the teacher's methods, the chances of any disciplinary action happening against the teacher are far less than if a student told the teacher to "shut up." Usually, punitive action against teachers depends on the principal's philosophy and other school district rules; however, teachers are often given far more leeway than students when interacting with each other. This is one of the main flaws of school discipline.

See also

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