Following and falling in line

Following and falling in line

Student behaviour should emerge out of a clear understanding of their rights, responsibilities, and the rules and routines that govern them, writes D J K Cornelius.

The principal objective  of developing disciplined behaviour in students is to prepare them to be most receptive to the learning environment and to prepare them to be lifelong learners. 

It is the duty of teachers and students to ensure that their behaviour emerge out of a clear understanding of their rights, responsibilities, and the rules and routines that govern them. Disciplining is not about controlling of children, but shaping of their behaviour, which is specifically, through the instruction of children to be cognisant of the framework of rights and the responsibilities that accompany them.

The essential rights of students are; the rights to feel safe at school, learn to the best of their ability, and be treated with dignity and respect. In order to ensure them, schools should operate on a set of rules, which should be written in a positive way and owned by teachers and students. They should be fair, practical, clear and certain.                                                                                                                  The importance of role modelling by the teacher cannot be too strongly stressed, as the rules would apply to the entire school community. Students should be made aware that the breaking of rules would result in adverse consequences.  Breaking the rules would entail corrective measures like ‘five-minute time outs’ (that presupposes a time-out room, which is desirably next to the staff room), exclusion from the group, the aim of which is rendering adequate time for cooling down, and deprivation of a desired activity. 

A copy of the school’s rules should be framed and put up in each classroom. In dealing with consequences and punishments, teachers should keep in mind that they address the behaviour rather than attack the person. 

It is communicating anger only on issues that count.  And keeping contact with the student through repairing and rebuilding is essential to good behaviour management.                                                                                                               The teacher can do well by adopting the four ‘W’ question approach (What did you do? What rule did you break? What is your explanation? What do you think you need to do to ‘fix’ things up? The teacher should address the child in a one to one interaction when the rest of the class is not present. 

She/he could ask one question to oneself, before calling upon the child, “How can I help the child to ‘fix’ things up, in the best manner possible?” This will help the child to understand the consequences of disruptive behaviour and avoid its recurrence while demonstrating that the teacher is not punitive but assistive.

Restitution is fundamentally the act of restoring something to its former state. Making good something that is damaged. Restitution is about solving a problem rather than fixing a blame. 

For instance; “Alright, this has happened. Now what is your plan to fix it? What can you do to repair the damage? How can I help you in your endeavour? What can you do to make up for it?”

Cardinal rules for teachers

The most result-oriented method of handling difficult situations is through treating pupils as they want to be treated. We need to address their behaviour and not them, acting quickly and consistently and the least intrusively. Being as clear as possible when telling them what is unacceptable about their behaviours, and identifying at least three things to praise them before being negative again, will go a long way in bringing about positive change among students. 

Teachers should  always remember that they are never confrontistic, but objective. They should have the genuine desire to correct without loss of self-esteem of the student and spend time with the student in counselling. They must be ready to seek assistance from others when in doubt, and maintain a brief note on student behaviour (if it is refractory) for future reference and special intervention. Teachers should be careful that they do not take the blame for rudeness. Rudeness in the pupil generally originates from other sources outside the school. They should endeavour always to avoid loosing their temper even if they are badly provoked. 

They need to remember that they are adults and have the responsibility to provide a good role model.They can also use humour to diffuse tension. Give an angry student the opportunity to back off without loosing face. For example, if a student shouts, “I hate you,” the teacher could desirably smile and say, “That’s a shame because I love you.”

Special Guide Lines

Take up time should be made available. It refers to the time a teacher gives a student to respond to corrective discipline. It also includes the component of ‘face saving’.

* Eye contact: Do not always insist on eye contact to the point of conflict.

*Re-establish working relationships with a positive statement as soon as possible.

* Use “Thank you” for every instruction that has been complied with or for which compliance is expected.

*Tactical ignoring: Divert attention to the next item quietly. Tactical ignoring is to ignore certain behaviour and keep in focus the flow of the lesson or to acknowledge  positive behaviour.

 Tactical ignoring is appropriate when other students are clearly reinforcing disruptive students, by giving them covert attention or when students are so engaged that they are either unaware or do not care how they are behaving. In this case, a distraction, diversion or firm rule-reminder or the controlled use of time out is appropriate. Standing still, when giving instructions and disciplining, is most desirable.

* With young primary-aged students, the appropriate use of tactile affirmation (an affirmative pat on the arm) can increase the likelihood of compliance. Culturally, this is most acceptable.                                                                                                                                                                *Commands must be given firmly without undue raising of the voice. A liberal use of “Thank you,” should be added. Strategies for restitution can then follow. 

* Whole school attitudes should be developed so as to accept and follow the standard norms agreed upon, not to show sympathy or attention to a student being ‘disciplined’ by a colleague, and discuss and arrive at standardised norms for disciplining, through workshops organised on an ongoing basis.

Rules should be phrased positively, emphasising what the student should be doing rather than telling them what they should not be doing.  Make it clear that to deserve a place in the class room the student will have to follow all the rules.

 Failure to do so will result in the student loosing that privilege.  Add this with emphasis, to the list of rules and the consequences of breaking them; the classroom is a society committed to learning. Any one who infringes the rules will be excluded.

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