Do you want to be TEFL or TESOL-certified and teach in ZhAnglou Nongchang? Are you interested in teaching English in Xuzhou Shi? Check out ITTT’s online and in-class courses, Become certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language and start teaching English ONLINE or abroad! ITTT offers a wide variety of Online TEFL Courses and a great number of opportunities for English Teachers and for Teachers of English as a Second Language.
When deciding on the topic title for my essay, this title jumped out at me as it posed a multitude of questions that I consider being fundamental to a successful classroom environment. The first such question I would like to explore is whether, by asking whether there are possible alternatives to punishment, that an assumption has been made that punishments should altogether be avoided? From a young age, children learn the difference between right and wrong through guidance from their parents; that’s to say that when they do certain things well, they get positive reinforcement. Conversely, when they do something undesirable, they get negative feedback and, in some cases, learn not to do this again. Sadly, an awfully large proportion of the children I have worked with in the deprived areas of the UK I have worked in miss out on this behaviour shaping in the early years of their lives. Their interactions with adults become routinely negative and so a cycle of behaviour is triggered whereby the limited interaction the child gets is negative and therefore, in order to get some attention, the child learns that they should perform an act that they know will get a response. That is not to assume that all behaviours can be explained in these simplistic terms but it is, I would argue, important to try to understand why someone is behaving in a particular way in order to understand how it can be shaped going forward. All behaviour is a means of communicating something so, having that rapport and respect with a class is critical in being able to set ground rules before you are then able to implement any consequences. All learning environments need to be safe, predictable and consistent. If all students know the ground-rules, you can then start to make the distinction between what is right (what you expect) and what is wrong. The emphasis should then be placed on the student to make that choice for themselves. I strongly believe that if you have clear expectations and then place the choice in the hands of the student, then you are not ‘punishing’ them if you have to carry out a reprimand, this is a course of events that they have chosen because they chose to do x or y in spite of knowing what would happen as a result. I think that this is possibly different to the perspective of the swathe of old skool teachers that I experienced at school 20-30 years ago, where the teacher was seen as demanding respect, regardless of anything. If you were naughty you were punished. People are extremely complicated but, on the whole, everyone has an innate desire to be liked and to have positive attention. If students, for one reason or another, demand attention in a negative way it is possible to recalibrate their thinking; it is not easy but it is certainly possible. It simply takes someone who is willing to show them the care, attention and time that they are most likely missing from elsewhere in their lives. Punishment may be a part of this but, in a rather manipulative kind of way, it is important that you allow them to see that they have chosen this punishment rather than you issuing it because you are another person that does not like them- sadly they may well have plenty of those in their lives already.