Despite the many advances in education today, school discipline continues to be a challenge. From primary all the way to high school education, teachers face difficulties with discipline and classroom management. In most countries, public schools are required to institute a school discipline policy outlining the disciplinary measures teachers and school officials can take to maintain order in the classroom. Without proper discipline, it is near impossible for schools to provide an environment that’s conducive to learning.
The Need for Discipline in Schools
Schools need a disciplinary standard in order to achieve their educational objectives and goals. Disciplinary measures help curtail harmful attitudes and behaviors that go against a school’s core values and rules. By taking time to create a good school discipline plan for their students, schools benefit from having a safer, more productive learning environment.
A good school discipline policy should give a clear account of:
- The institution’s rules
- Strategies for promoting good student behavior
- Strategies for managing unsuitable behavior
- Behaviors that are prohibited on school grounds such as bullying, persistent disobedience, violent acts, possession of illegal weapons and drugs, etc.
Every school has to develop disciplinary measures suitable for their particular environment. A middle school discipline plan may vary from a high school discipline plan due to the age range, type of disciplinary problems encountered in the institution and maturity level of their students. The school is also responsible to inform parents and students of their disciplinary plan so everyone is well aware of the rules and consequences for breaking them.
Rules and Routines Help to Re-enforce School Discipline
Like any other aspect of society, schools need rules and routines to function properly. Teachers need to have order in their classrooms to be able to teach. Students need a safe and secure environment in which to learn. School rules help to establish all of these aspects so classrooms can run smoothly and efficiently.
At the beginning of every year, teachers need to inform their students of the rules adopted by their school or classroom. This helps to reinforce the rules in their students’ minds. At the same time, teachers can discuss why certain rules are needed and how these rules benefit students in helping them have a more productive school experience.
School norms and rules are generally created by teachers, staff, parents and other members of the local community. When it comes to establishing classroom rules, many teachers incorporate the help of their students. Students are more likely to follow rules they had a hand in making. By keeping classroom rules short and concise, teachers make it easier for students to remember and obey them.
Along with rules, classrooms function better when teachers institute a routine for learning that their students can follow. Routines help students and teachers stay organized throughout the year so they don’t waste precious teaching and learning time. Disorder can easily lead to disciplinary problems as teachers take classroom time to get organized rather than teach, giving their students extra free time to fool around and get into trouble.
Some areas in which routines can be established are:
- Taking attendance
- Distributing school supplies or books
- Sharpening pencils
- Organizing group activities
- Turning in assignments
- Restroom breaks
- Putting away school materials
- Lining up for lunch
- Dismissing the classroom
What Constitutes “Bad Behavior?”
In most U.K. schools, teachers and staff have permission to discipline students who misbehave in accordance with their school discipline policy. Bad behavior can range anywhere from teasing other students to committing violent acts. It’s important students are well aware of what actions constitute “bad behavior” in their school so they will not be caught by surprise when consequences are given for these offenses. Here are some common offenses that could be categorized as unacceptable behavior in many U.K. middle and secondary schools.
- Skipping school
- Cheating on exams
- Smoking on school grounds
- Being disrespectful to teachers
- Disrupting class
- Not abiding by the school dress code
Disciplinary Action in U.K. Schools
Punishment for school offenses may differ from school to school, depending on the measures adopted by that institution. Most schools make an effort to match the punishment to suit the infraction. For minor offenses, teachers may have students write lines 100 times or more, such as “I will not chew gum in class.” Sometimes students are given detention as a punishment, requiring that they stay in school after hours for a certain amount of time. During detention, students may be asked to work for half hour to an hour or write lines. Detention takes away from a student’s free time to fellowship with friends, watch TV or partake of favorite pastimes, making it an unwelcome penalty for misbehavior.
Suspension and exclusion (being expelled) are other forms of high school and middle school discipline, generally reserved for major infractions. Students who are suspended from school are not allowed back on school grounds until their case has been reviewed by school officials. Students may be suspended anywhere from 1 day to 45 days within a school term. During the period of suspension, teachers can assign school work for students to complete at home so they don’t fall too far behind.
Exclusion is more serious than suspension as it means a student cannot return to the school at all. He or she must find another school that will take them in to complete his or her education or hire a private tutor to educate him or her at home. Another alternative would be to attend a special education center designed to handle students with disciplinary problems. Each school has the right to distinguish what is considered a minor or major infraction for their institution. Persistent disobedience in breaking minor rules could also lead to a more severe punishment.
In the event students feel their school punishment is unjust or unwarranted, they can appeal to the legal system for help in having the punishment revoked. In Scotland, a secondary school student named Freya MacDonold did just that after being sent to detention too many times for what she felt were trivial offenses. The 15 yr. old’s case was built on the premise that it was unlawful for schools to keep students on school grounds without their consent, as according to Scottish law, children could not be detained against their will. Scottish law further stated that children had a legal right to obtain an education. Freya argued that her high school discipline of constant detention was an infraction of her civil rights as it detracted from her education. As a result of her legal action, hundreds of Scottish schools stopped using detention as a disciplinary action.
Discipline in school has become such a major issue in the U.K. that many institutions are requiring that parents sign a school contract consenting to the school’s policy before admitting their children into the school. The contract further requires that parents take responsibility for their children’s behavior in school and respect the school’s disciplinary measures.
It’s important schools find a good balance between teaching and managing behavior problems so students can get the most from their education. Teachers who start the year with a good discipline plan and make classroom management a priority will have less disciplinary problems. These classroom management techniques can help new teachers in setting the tone for the school year:
- Plan lessons in advance so students have no free time to chat or cause trouble in class
- Set simple, relevant rules for classroom behavior and be consistent in enforcing them
- Be prepared with disciplinary measures to handle unacceptable behavior
- Apply disciplinary measures fairly across the board to all students
- Deal with classroom disruptions quickly and discreetly, so as not to lose teaching time
- Avoid teacher/student confrontations by handling disciplinary issues in private
School discipline problems are not new. With every new generation of students, educators face the challenge of how to handle students who misbehave at school. The best form of discipline is that which teaches young people to value their education and make better choices in their school behavior so as not to ruin their future. Both parents and teachers play a role in helping young people adhere to the disciplinary standard in their school. By working together, parents and teachers can make a difference in changing their kids’ behavior patterns so they can benefit from a more productive and enjoyable school experience.