Discipline in the ClassroomThere is no “perfect” classroom setting in which to teach english
, and there are neither perfect students nor teachers. Every aspect of the learning experience is affected by certain levels of discipline. The most dedicated student will, at times, require a bit of a push. The best of teachers must still define their expectations before they can expect students to fulfill all of their requirements. Students may require discipline for a variety of reasons, from a young learner speaking in their native language in the classroom, to an adult student failing to dedicate adequate effort to their studies. Disciplinary problems in the classroom are extremely varied and require adaptability, but I have learned to manage these issues through several fundaments that I have learned from both my studies in this TEFL program and my experience as an EFL teacher.
The first consideration is what level of discipline and control the teacher needs to establish in class. Does the teacher wish to establish rules that are strict and ridged, with strong punishments as a penalty for students who violate the stated rules? Should an opposite approach be taken, with rules which are flexible with little, if any, consequences for violations? Or, does the best approach fall somewhere in the middle? Determining the best level of discipline depends on a variety of factors, such as the preference of the teacher, their teaching style, as well as the personalities of and the age of their students.
Regardless of whichever path the teacher chooses, the one thing that is critical to maintain a positive atmosphere in the classroom is rapport. A teacher who is considered strict by their students may become extremely disliked by their students. Although a number of students may respond to this teaching style and respectfully follow the stringent rules, there can still be many others who will become less responsive than they would have been if the relationship if the teacher had been better. Likewise, a teacher who is too laid-back and friendly may find that over time they become ineffective because the students don’t respect following their direction. In every situation, developing rapport and building respect between the students and the teacher can often overcome behavior problems before they become an issue.
As stated above, the age range of the students plays an important role in determining the level and type of discipline that is most effective. It is no surprise that young learners
tend to require the greatest degree of management in the classroom. My experience with young learners, ranging from pre-elementary to high school, has taught me that encouragement can often be just as important as discipline in effective behavior management. Rather than constantly focusing on the negative things a student may do, the teacher can highlight when the students meet or exceed their expectations. Not all students who exhibit behavior problems are doing it on purpose, even though it may seem like it at the time. Sometimes, students may be seeking discipline out of a desire for the teacher’s attention to be on them. Focusing on and praising when students do well, particularly the students who exhibit behavior issues, can counteract many issues by creating a positive energy in the class, and not giving the attention-seeking student his/her sought after spotlight.
The last and perhaps the most important factor when establishing discipline in the classroom comes from the teacher him/herself: the teacher’s attitude. A teacher who is insensitive to their students’ history, learning speed and personality cannot ever hope to get the best from their students. Like most aspects of discipline in the classroom, this issue is multiplied when applied to the teaching of young learners. Students often model their behavior in class after the teacher, and a teacher who lacks patience and kindness cannot rightly expect to receive the same from their students. The behavior of the teacher should be a model for the students to follow, and the personality of the teacher should encourage their students to learn the language, not make them afraid of it.
Before anything can be effectively taught, it is necessary that a teacher effectively establish control of their classroom. Failure to manage students’ behavior can manifest more problems in the future. This is the first thing many teachers (myself included) learn during their first months of teaching, and it is one of the most important skills a teacher can develop. Proper discipline creates the structure which allows students to undertake the difficult task of learning english
as a foreign language.