By Morris Mabior Awikjokdit
“A school can be regarded as a social institution, and important one for that matter. As an institution, it has to have certain basic regulations governing, controlling and directing the behavior of its members the majority of whom are pupils”.
In such a setting discipline is important, since without it the purpose of the school cannot be achieved effectively. Discipline implies control, without which there would be anarchy and chaos and learning would not take place effectively. The problem of discipline is not new in our system of Education in South Sudan and Africa in general. Pupil’s defy the teacher’s authority, thus creating a state of tension and hostility.
To begin with as an experience trained professional teacher, it is appropriate that we identify the causes that necessitate discipline. There are several causes and therefore I will attempt to discuss a few to the knowledge of my experience. Misbehavior in school and the classroom may originate in the child himself, the school, the society, the child’s parents or the teachers.
A number of child-related factors may be responsible for pupil’s misbehavior in class. First, he may well have been raised to behave in ways which are not congruent with the behavior expected of him at school .It is also common for a child to misbehave in order to conform to peer expectations and avoid rejection.
Frustration’s at home or at school may result to misbehavior, as may the approval and recognition a pupil receives from his peers for challenging the teacher’s authority. .Misbehavior such as cheating in tests may be motivated by the desire to avoid making mistakes and being punished.
A child who does not receive love and good care from his parents is likely to have no respect for them and may well extend this perception of adults to all the other figures of authority in his life, including his teachers and school itself. Often parents are unable to control their children, who transfer their way of relating at home to the school situation.
It also happens that a problem being experience by his parents, child becomes too preoccupied with problems at home, for example the marital problems being experience by his parents, can make him unable to concentrate at school and as a result transgresses school regulations. A child’s behavior may also be affected by his parents’ economic status. For example, he may sometimes miss school in order to do some form of domestic work to help supplement their income.
Parents themselves may foster misbehaviors by their children. Often they interfere in what the teacher is doing and refuse to allow their children to be punished, irrespective of what they have done. Some parents criticize the teachers in front of their children telling him/ her, what he or she may and may not do. Obviously parents must have a say in the way their children are taught and treated, but it would be in their best interest to trust that teachers knows what they are doing, and to refrain from interfering in their work unless they do something really outrageous.
Society too must bear its share of the responsibility for the misbehavior of children at school. What happens at school is merely a reflection of what is going on in society. Through the media, children are exposed to violence and see their peers and adults defying authority. They model such behavior and apply it to their relationships with other children at school and with the school itself.
For various reasons school may also be a source of lack of discipline and misbehavior among children. Some of the school rules and regulation may not only be rigid and strict, but also punitive and unnecessary, in my opinion.
If the classes are large and crowded, it is difficult for the teachers to maintain control. Undesirable behavior on the part of children in such classes may well be the result of them being uncomfortable and therefore unable to concentrate. Misbehavior in this context may actually be a way of releasing tension.
Inadequate supervision of the pupils during break period may give the older, stronger pupils the opportunity to bully others. Another factor affecting discipline in school is the authority vested in the teacher. In some schools, certain disciplinary measures may be administrated by the head teacher only. Teacher is the only person with limitations on his time, and it will be too much to expect him to cope with all the disciplinary problems in school.
Teachers seldom acknowledge their culpability for disciplinary problems. The blame is usually laid on pupils and their parents who did not bring them up properly! However, teachers can cause children to misbehave as a result of the way in which they interact with them at school particularly in the classroom.
Some teachers have very little regard for pupil’s feelings and ridicule, belittle and humiliate them, which does not contribute to the establishment of a positive relationship between the teacher and his pupils. A teacher cannot expect his pupils to like and respect him in my opinion, since he knows no other method of disciplining children expect through corporal punishment.
Furthermore some teachers come to class unprepared, late or improperly dressed, which is unlikely to engender respect for them among their pupils.
Some teachers use the classroom as a platform for destructive criticism of the pupils’ parents and culture believing themselves to have some sort of immunity with regard to arousing the children’s resentment.
Teachers can also contribute to disciplinary problems in the classroom by giving their pupils assignments that are too difficult for them, being unable to answer their questions satisfactorily, or setting unreasonable and flexible deadlines for assignments and having groups of favored and disliked pupils.
How to maintain discipline in the classroom
In an attempt to identify some of the origins of classroom discipline problems, I will now focus on how in my opinion the issue of discipline can be maintained in a classroom in the process of teacher-pupil interactions.
The teacher must make it clear what the objective of his lesson is, so that pupils can approach it in a purposeful way, with the aim of achieving certain goals. The work pupils are given should neither be too easy nor too difficult for them. If the work is too easy, the pupils will probably consider it a waste of time and an insult to their intelligence, but if it is too difficult, they are likely to experience failure and frustration and ultimately, to give up. In either case, inappropriate behavior is likely to occur. Moreover, the teacher’s preparation for his lesson can result in improvements in classroom management.
A teacher who is well prepared exudes a sense of self-confidence, and his pupils will perceive him or her as being well organized. It is imperative that new teachers or teachers who are working with new class, over prepared rather than underprepared. The pupils will realize that there is a great deal to do and therefore they have no time to waste. They will also feel that their time is considered valuable and that the teacher is in control.
Whatever is being taught, the lesson should be presented in such a manner that pupil’s interest will be aroused and sustained for the duration of the period. It is also essential that, with assignment, pupils should be given clear instructions as to how they should proceed. Their progress must be monitored and individual questions should be attended to as they work on the assignment. The teacher should not consider this to be spare time for sitting in the staff room or knitting or reading a newspaper.
A person’s name signifies his identify and most pupils find it satisfying to know that a person as important as a teacher knows them by name. Therefore a teacher should learn his pupil’s names as quickly as he can. This is likely to make them feel positively about him and that they are welcome in his class. Having learned their names, the teacher should make a point of using them as often as possible to ensure that he does not forget them, for example when greeting them, talking to them or asking them to do something.
The teacher and pupils should collaborate in drawing up a set of rules regarding what is expected of the pupils in class. These rules should be kept to a minimum and should be workable, reasonable and clear. The teacher should discuss any violation of the rules calmly with the pupils concerned in order to find out what caused it. He should be prepared to listen to the pupils and show an interest in their learning and success. He should intervene to help pupils as soon as he can, and praise them where such reinforcement is warranted. If criticism is necessary, it should be aimed at the offence rather than the pupil as a person.
A teacher should be known for or strive for the following qualities: friendliness and firmness, competence and a positive self-concept. In dealing with pupils he should be both reasonable and fairly consistent and should give them the impression that he knows what he is doing. This is especially important when a teacher starts working with a new class.
Finally, at all times the teacher must show that he is in charge, competent, confident and prepared for the lesson, and act in a professional and business like yet, pleasant and supportive manner. In my opinion, teachers who are competent, organized, and well-prepared will have fever management and discipline problems. It is also my opinion that, teachers who are able to minimize the management and discipline problems tend to be successful in their teaching.
Dealing with misbehavior;
Despite taking the preceding precautions , a teacher could still find himself dealing with a situation where preventive measures have failed and he must take some sort of action concerning undesirable behavior on the part of the pupil. There are several ways of dealing with such situations in my opinion, and I attempt to discuss a few It is my believe that reprimanding a pupil privately is more effective than doing so publicly. Better still the teacher could discuss the misbehavior with the pupil at an appropriate time. The pupil is likely to take heed of this courteous warning.
If a pupil does not do or complete an assignment and the teacher’s attempts to change this behavior are unsuccessful, he should bring the problem to the attention of the head teacher or the parents of the pupil or better still the school counselor.
I wish to suggest a number of ways in dealing with classroom problems;
If for instance a pupil misbehave during lesson, the teacher may take one of the following strategies.
(a) Give the pupils a long hard look to show that you are not happy with what he/she is doing and the sooner he/she stops doing it the better.
(b) Simply draw the pupil’s attention to the undesirable behavior.
(c) Command the pupil to pay attention to what is going on.
(d) Draw the attention of the misbehaving pupil to that of a pupil who is behaving appropriately.
(e) Ignore the behavior and praise the positive behavior.
I also believe that the teacher can maintain discipline by moving in the direction of a misbehaving pupil without stopping what he is doing. Undesirable behavior would also be brought under control simply by asking the pupil concerned a relevant question.
Troublesome students may be made to sit in the front row where the teacher can keep an eye on them. Where the teacher detects tension and a state of restlessness among the class, he should find out whether the pupil need help with their work and give it where possible. Otherwise he may crack a joke to release the tension. Various minor misbehavior such as an occasional whisper or the passing of a note should be ignored, since they are not worth worrying about.
Punishment as you may know means being subjected to a painful stimulus or having a pleasant one removed due to engaging in undesirable behavior.. Punishment in school may take the form of suspension, corporal punishment, manual work, expulsion, isolation, detention after school and being deprived of certain privileges. The types of misbehavior for which punishment may be justifiably be administered in my opinion are disrespect for teachers or authority, fighting, vandalism, missing classes, failing to do assignments, making a noise in the class and not paying attention in class.
Punishment is used world-wide as a means of controlling undesirable behavior though in some parts of the world it is used extensively and freely, partly because there are no legal measures in existence to restrain its use, particularly in the form of corporal punishment.. Indeed the way in which some teachers interact with their pupils makes the classroom a war zone. The use of punishment is a controversial issue, with some psychologists arguing in its favor and others arguing for its banning.
The focus of the controversy is the use of corporal punishment and server forms of punishment. My believe is that, the best policy regarding corporal punishment is to avoid it all together.
It is widely argued that the use of corporal punishment is not an effective means of controlling undesirable behavior, and its effect do not justify its use. From experience punishing a child physically can cause the child to develop hatred for school, the teachers and learning in general. In some cases it may lead to absenteeism or dropping out of school altogether. Although I don’t personally endorse the use of corporal punishment but it well be naive to believe that it has no place in the maintenance of discipline.
In my opinion if punishment in whatever form is felt to be necessary and justifiable one needs to put the following factors into consideration when administering it.
i. Ensure punishment be used rarely, sparingly and as a last resort.
ii. Before a pupil is being punished he should be told why he is being punished.
iii. Punishment should be administered as soon as an offence is committed so that a link is made between the offence and the punishment.
iv. A teacher should not administer corporal punishment when he is very angry or upset, since he is likely to be too server and inclined to appease his own anger.
v. If the punishing a child is likely or make him a hero before his classmates or lead to defiance then the punishment should be postponed and administered where it is not likely to have such an effect.
vi. Once the offender has been punished, he should not be given the impression that he no longer merits the teachers love and care.
Therefore, I am with the opinion that the teacher should look for desirable behavior for which the pupils learning can be reinforced.
The school is a social institution entrusted with the responsibility of containing and supplementing the process of socialization which begins at home. As an institution, the school has to have rules and regulations which facilitate socialization and effective learning.
As there are discipline problems in society, so there are discipline problems at school, which is part of society. These discipline problems have their origins in society itself, the home, school and the teachers .The role of teachers in controlling problems originating outside the school is rather limited. On the other hand, they are capable of influencing pupils’ behavior as they interact with them on the school premises and in the classroom ,therefore in my opinion teachers can facilitate discipline and classroom management by seeing that their pupils are well treated, ensuring that they are prepared for their lessons and present them in an interesting and professional manner.
Although the use of punishment has its role in maintaining discipline in class, the emphasis should be on reinforcing positive behavior and ignoring minor misbehavior. Where punishment is necessary, it should .be used with care so that pupils are not injured or made to hate school so much that they decide to quit school altogether. It should also be borne in mind that children can learn and behave in accordance with the school regulations and in society at large without being subjected to severe forms of punishments.
The author of this Article is a freelance opinion writer and a professional experience teacher based in Warrap State- Kuajok. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org