When body language speaks

Last Updated 25 September 2013, 15:44 IST

Teachers naturally move around the class room during instruction when they are not writing anything on the board or making a presentation. Physical presence and proximity prevents many discipline problems from occurring.

Students who would want to do something that is against the rules of the classroom have a difficult time if the teacher is close by moving up and down the aisles. Teachers who just sit on their chairs give opportunities for students to do what they like.

Snapping - not a good practice!

“Hey, Sunder what are you up to? Get back to work.”

“ Sunita and Salman, stop talking.”

This type of snapping just creates more commotion. More students get distracted and even those who are doing serious work get disturbed.

“I did not do anything Ma’am,” says Sunder.

“Salman started talking,” says Sunita.

Do we need such conversation in class? These will only distract the whole class and everything gets delayed.

Teachers could learn certain prearranged set of physical moves that conveys to the students, “I mean business,” without resorting to shouting and threatening. If one becomes an expert in this, no other student in the class becomes aware that the teacher has noticed indiscipline except the targeted student and teacher.

Discipline and punishment

Discipline is not the same as punishment, just as ‘freedom is not the same as license’. Physical punishment and verbal abuse are most ineffective. They are more harmful than helpful. It discourages students and brings down their self-esteem and creates a kind of apathy towards the teacher. It is true that it also promotes physical aggression and makes them feel that violence is acceptable and that ‘might is right’.

An example of positive discipline would be to tell a student “Please keep your desks clean because I want all the teachers who inspect your desks to feel that you are all ‘good children’. Use body language here. ‘Can I come and have a look at your desks? Yes, Of course I shall give you sometime to straighten it out.’

The only thing they need is clear rules and consistent enforcement without anger and annoyance. The body language here would be to help out some of the students who are not capable of keeping anything organized. Teachers and students should collectively decide upon certain rules and regulations and see that it is enforced by all with the help of each other.

One good rule to win over the students is to avoid power struggles. “I am the teacher. I have all the authority to do or say what I like.” This attitude is never appreciated by any student. Discipline cannot become a game where there is a winner and a loser. Teachers expect cooperation from students and students expect teachers to be fair. There is nothing wrong if teachers allow disagreements at times.

Students should know that as a teacher, it is ‘only the misbehavior’ that is disapproved and not the student who has misbehaved.  Teachers do love their students, don’t they?  

Role models

Teachers are the second role models after parents. They need to set a good example.
A teacher cannot be doing things against the school rules and chastise his/her students for doing the same. Having a mobile on her table, or in her hand and going out to talk to someone during class hours, talking aloud into her mobile, etc will well reveal a teacher’s shabby behavior. This only gives ideas to students that it is okay to do what one feels.
A frown on the face and an intent look at a student who is misbehaving is enough to say that the teacher does not approve of the particular behavior. If classroom rules are decided collectively along with the students, they are less likely to break them and more likely to promote them.

(Published 25 September 2013, 15:44 IST)

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