Discipline in the Classroom Discipline is an often discussed topic


Discipline is an often discussed topic among all teachers and even more so among ESL teachers. Keeping control of a class and creating an atmosphere conducive to study in a room where the first language of the teacher is not the first language of the students can be a very daunting task. The common dialogue about discipline among ESL teachers is more often than not some sort of giving of advice or making inquiries about very specific situations. In this paper I would like to explore where the need for discipline comes from, how attitudes towards teaching and learning influence class atmosphere and the role of a teacher in a more autonomous environment.

'Having a quiet, obedient and attentive class is a dream for language teachers, but how often does it happen in reality'! Students are disruptive for a variety of reasons; boredom; the work is too easy or difficult; peer pressure; factors outside the classroom and others'

The causes for disruptive behavior in the classroom are wide ranging, and a lot of the time outside of the teacher's control, sensitivity to these causes is beneficial to an ESL teacher and even more important is to be aware of the difficulties in learning another language. We as teachers can only do so much to control students' environments outside of the classroom but we can influence atmosphere in the classroom and we should try to be aware of our students' individual difficulties and needs, 'One of the most widespread reasons for bad discipline, however, is usually a student´s inability to cope with the tasks.' One of the most attitude changing experiences I've had as a teacher was enrolling in a Korean language class. Once I became the student I was made aware of the difficulties my students face in my class and I became very sensitive to the balance of using language that can be understood by everyone while trying to raise the level of the language used at the same time.

'A common myth is that imposed punishments are necessary to change young people´s behavior. If this type of punishment worked, then once a youngster is punished the same behavior would not be repeated.'

Ideas of 'positive reinforcement' and 'autonomous learning' are very current in ESL teacher discourse and although they are hard to put into practice, and there are a lot of arguments that students today have too much freedom, my experience has been that punishment does not work, 'If telling worked, you would not have to repeat yourself and people would do what you wanted them to do.' In doing the research for this paper I came across the work of Marvin Marshall on how old ideas of punishment are flawed in that punishment promotes the opposite of what we as teachers are trying to do, 'Punishments kill the very thing we are attempting to do-- change behavior into something that is positive and socially appropriate.' We as teachers are not only teaching a topic, we are getting people ready to be functioning citizens in the world. The message of punishment is not one of responsibility; it's one of acting in fear. Punishment is not a philosophy of 'do good' but is a philosophy of 'don't do wrong'; 'It is important that a student feels responsible for their own actions so they can understand the importance of making good decisions for themselves in the future.' So how do we maintain discipline without using punishment' We use responsibility and respect.

'By the time some students reach the secondary level, they have been talked to, lectured at, sent out of class, kept after school, referred to the office, referred to Saturday school, suspended in school, suspended from school--and they simply no longer care'

I've been working with the idea of a class being something like a sports team, and how a successful sports team is successful when everyone on the team is performing at their highest level. If we expect the best, the best will finally come, 'Keep High Expectations in Your Class. Expect that your students will behave, not that they will disrupt.' This high expectation of the students gives us as teachers a bigger responsibility to the class. We are responsible for planning interesting and challenging exercises for the students, always. We are responsible for embodying, projecting and maintaining a level of respect for each other we feel the class should conduct itself with. We should have the confidence in our teaching skills to allow the students to influence how they are going to be taught and create an open and comfortable environment where the students' opinions and ideas are encouraged; 'When you do give kids a voice, they don't feel so much like causing trouble because they appreciate their freedom of choice.'

Footnotes

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/talk/questions/discipline.shtml http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/methodology/discipline_proble ms.shtml

http://712educators.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm' zi=1/XJ&sdn=712educators&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marvinmarshall.com% 2FProgram_Overview.html

http://712educators.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm' zi=1/XJ&sdn=712educators&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marvinmarshall.com% 2FProgram_Overview.html

http://712educators.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm' zi=1/XJ&sdn=712educators&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marvinmarshall.com% 2FProgram_Overview.html

http://www.prin.edu/users/els/students/education/2001fq/casie/managem ent_rationale.htm

http://712educators.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm' zi=1/XJ&sdn=712educators&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marvinmarshall.com% 2FProgram_Overview.html

http://712educators.about.com/od/discipline/tp/disciplinetips.htm

http://www.prin.edu/users/els/students/education/2001fq/casie/managem ent_rationale.htm