Discipline and Violence
Developing proper classroom discipline
Some teachers and parents claim that corporal punishment makes it easier for teachers to manage their classrooms. However there is little evidence that caning or beating are as effective as many people believe. According to experts in the field, "there is considerable data indicating that corporal punishment does not, in any consistent way, deter misbehaviour or encourage good behaviour on the part of children. Most experts agree that corporal punishment does nothing to fulfil the disciplinary goal of developing a childs conscience so as to enable him or her to behave well " Hitting children is also a dangerous practice, which can cause physical and psychological injury. It inhibits positive child development and positive forms of discipline.
Children are holders of human rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires everyone, in article 19, to protect children from "all forms of physical and mental violence" while in the care of parents and others.
Teachers should impose non-physical disciplinary measures as an alternative to beatings or canings. Teachers can require students to write a statement describing the negative effects of their behaviour, or to apologize for the mistake in front of their classmates. The misbehaving child could sit on a chair or a mat at the back of the room and think about their mistake and of ways to improve their behaviour. You can ask the child to perform additional academic work. You can require the student to bring his or her parents to school to talk about poor behaviour.
You can also discipline a child by assigning non-abusive physical tasks. You can ask students to perform light chores, to water or weed a school garden, or to fix what they have broken: "Learners who build chairs are not apt to break them. Learners who wash walls are not apt to make them dirty on purpose. If learners are reinforced for keeping their schoolyard neat and clean, they are less likely to throw trash on it," according to the Namibian Ministry of Education and Culture. Such punishments should be administered in a thoughtful and not in an excessive or exploitative manner.
Every time you become upset by a student, you must remember a simple message: the goal of our actions must, first of all, not be punitive or to enforce our sense of discipline. Rather, it must be to help children to learn self-discipline and the rules of our society and the expectations and values of the culture.
Children learn respect by being respected. US studies show a correlation between higher rates of corporal punishment and higher rate of violence. Studies show that significantly more children who were physically punished engaged in both violent crime and property crime. One reason is that an ability to learn self-discipline requires self-respect. Self-respect comes when children feel loved and appreciated. Adults can think about how we can create child-friendly homes; learn to communicate their feelings to children; develop routines that reduce their need to nag; be honest and encouraging with children; help schools develop new approaches to conflict resolution (source: Kaufman, M. (2000) The issue of physical punishment and ending violence in our homes and communities, UNICEF).
Setting Rules and Expectations
Disciplinary measures will be more effective if you make clear your expectations as a teacher at the beginning of the term. If the students know the rules in advance, then there are no surprises when the teacher penalizes those who break them. Students are more likely to perceive the punishment as just, to maintain their respect for the teacher, and to obey the guidelines if the regulations are made explicit than if not.
Furthermore, student acceptance of the rules will increase if pupils participate in setting guidelines for the classroom. The process of establishing guidelines will give them a greater understanding of the reasons for the regulations, and they will see themselves as having a stake in their enforcement.
Violence is any action or word intended to cause hurt, emotional or physical, to a person, to groups of people, or to oneself. Violence is often directed at a person or people because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or physical and mental abilities. Violence is using power to control another person through subtle and not so subtle ways.
School culture can both promote and support violence or it can evolve a culture and socialization process that promotes and sustains healthy violence-free relationships.
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse destroys a child's self-image. Keep in mind that emotional abuse may accompany other forms of abuse, including sexual or physical abuse or neglect Emotional abuse includes clusters of both physical and behavioural symptoms and occurs over a period of time. However, some of the following signs may also be an indication of other kinds of upset in a child's life, such as illness, disfunctional family, death in the family or loss of a pet.
(See also Prevention: Physical and Sexual Abuse)
How a teacher can respond to a disclosure of violence or abuse
Tell the child:
immediately report the disclosure to local child protection services, or other relevant authority.
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Violence, including sex-based harassment, often inhibits learning and influences the experiences and outcomes of schooling for girls and boys. Often, sexuality and gender bias are hidden in curriculum. This hidden curriculum can support the development of gender-biased violence. Therefore a whole school approach to eliminating gendered violence should include a review of existing policies and cultures and the development of a gender-appropriate curriculum. Students need opportunities to explore the ways in which traditional views of masculinity and femininity inform and constrain them, and strategies to empower them to embrace change and develop respectful gender relationships. You can begin by counteracting the gender-stereotyped models and messages that burden boys with a male ideal that does not include an ability to express emotions, and that burden girls with a female ideal centred around physical beauty.
The support for non-violence as a way to be male or female needs to be incorporated into all aspects of the school culture, raging from policy guidelines to classroom interaction, to athletics and sports. A non-violent culture is one in which students can feel safe to move outside of rigidly defined gender expectations.
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Last revised December, 2001
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