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No Punishment: Redefining Discipline in Classrooms

Teachers and educationists have been struggling with issues related to discipline for decades. However, if dealt with proper care and consistency, creating discipline in students can be an easy and effortless task.

The dictionary meaning of discipline is ‘the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.’ Today, however, with changing times, there has been a shift from using punishment as a tool to enforce discipline. For academicians and teachers, both in the formal and informal school of life, discipline is a vital ingredient in imparting knowledge. Teaching discipline is as important as teaching the subject matter. Poor discipline in your classroom can ruin your day, your job, and even your career.

The Punishment Debate

Lately, there has been a consistent debate about whether or not punishments should be implemented in classrooms. Punishments have their own positives and negatives depending upon the severity and intensity of their implementation. Kanchan Mittal, COO & Co-founder, Ipsaa Daycare opines, ‘Today’s children are totally different from what children used to be around 10 years ago. The mentality of a person also changes with changing times. Being a student, I have realised that just holding someone in detention or giving suspensions is not the solution. Education needs to ensure that children can think independently, be curious, critic and creative and that could only happen if they reflect upon their bad choices, not if they are just punished for it.’ Kartik Bajoria – Writer, Educator and Moderator avers, ‘Punishment, in my view, is an outdated concept that does not yield anything positive. Kids are extremely independent, aware and opinionated. If punished, called-out in front of their peers, they will alienate themselves even more, both from the educator and from the lesson. If I feel discipline is wavering, which mostly happens when a student is losing interest during an especially heavy/dull part of a lesson, I take a break. I try and do a quick time-out activity, like a round of Charades or Hangman. This gets students right back and we return to the lesson.’

Conducive Environment

Start with the basics and do things right. Greet students with warmth and respect. Students learn best through actions than words. If one greets students with warmth and respect, in most likelihood, the students will reciprocate. ‘Have a personal rapport with each student and deal with all students as equals without any bias. State clear rules and enforce them consistently – the lesser and clearer the rules are, the higher are the chances of students following them. Use non-verbal tools to make the student aware that you are observing him/her – for instance, raise your eyebrows over raising your voice, or include the student’s name in examples. In case you need to reprimand some student, do it immediately and as gently as possible. However, avoid humiliating the child publicly. The more publicly we reprimand a child, the higher are the chances of the child becoming a rebel. Make sure you encourage positive behaviour by praising the child in front of all his peers and classmates,’ advises Rashi Ahuja, Senior Psychologist at IWill by EpsyClinic.

Do It Right

Getting to the root of a problem helps you modify your mindset, and involving the class in the solution gives them ownership over it and promotes self-discipline. For instance, if a student is chronically late in assembly, you might say, “Maybe you need more time to get ready for assembly. What if I tell you that you need to start getting ready fifteen minutes ahead of time?” This way, you give students a solution instead of reprimanding them for being at fault. Be authoritative, not authoritarian,’ says Sunanda Rao, Founder, Concept. Dr Veena Srivastava, Principal, Gopi Birla Memorial She further adds, ‘We as academicians try our best to inculcate good values and appropriate norms of conduct and character building in our kids through leading by example, motivational lectures and discourses and counselling sessions, also by discussing the lives of great people to encourage the young minds to aspire for better integrity and disciplined life. They should master their lives through self-discipline.”

Balancing Act

Physical punishment does not beget discipline, it just makes the fear drill in the discipline. Discipline has to come from within, naturally, without fear, without any sentence or bribe. Academicians need to understand the thin line between discipline and punishment. Any kind of verbal misconduct or abuse can hamper students’ personality, leading to aggressive behavioural patterns. ‘First, the teachers/mentors need to come down to the student level to understand and practise those disciplinary actions to get them implemented positively. Apart from regular subject lectures, the faculty can help share a bond with students by giving them sessions on grooming/communication skills and the like,’ says Huma Ali, Branch head, INIFD Deccan, Pune. There is a need for schools and colleges to make students understand the importance of being a good human being, and how their behaviour or habits can help them evolve into persons of impeccable character.

Bindu Gopal Rao

Freelance Journalist A professional writer with over 19 years of experience writing for print and online media, her interest areas include education, government policies and technology.


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