discipline

Discipline is key for the smooth functioning of a children’s class. On the importance of discipline in the education of children, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote the following:

It followeth that the children’s school must be a place of utmost discipline and order, that instruction must be thorough, and provision must be made for the rectification and refinement of character; so that, in his earliest years, within the very essence of the child, the divine foundation will be laid and the structure of holiness raised up.

Maintaining discipline is one of those things a teacher learns through experience. Good classroom discipline depends largely upon the teacher’s ability to guide children, individually and as a group, through the activities of a class in a smooth and coherent way. Many factors come into play: the number and nature of activities planned for the class; the teacher’s readiness and ability to present them; the character, capacities and needs of each child; the atmosphere and arrangement of the classroom; and more. All of these will affect the way a teacher is able to capture and focus the children’s energy and attention and guide them through a lesson.

rules

  • Establishing a few common ground rules for the class is a great help to discipline. They should be worded in the positive (i.e. “Do…” instead of “Don’t…”) They should be simple yet specific, such as “We show respect towards everyone, in our words and in our deeds”, or “We use the interrupt rule when we want the teacher’s attention”. Once rules are established, they can be displayed prominently in the classroom (e.g. on a poster) so that they can be referred to easily.

planning

  • Adequate planning before every class goes a long way in facilitating discipline. When a teacher gets to know the lesson well and arranges all the required materials before class, it’s much easier to present the lesson fluidly and with confidence.

transitions

  • Learn or create simple songs, rhymes or actions to help guide children through transitions or to focus their attention. Example attention-getters include, “Hands on top, that means stop!” or “Hocus pocus, time to focus!” The children in our class taught us these themselves—their schoolteachers use them when they need to get the children’s attention.

reward and punishment

  • Reward the children with special privileges or opportunities when they show forth praiseworthy qualities. For example, if a child shows great courtesy or consideration towards her classmates, she could be asked to hand out crayons when the time comes for colouring; if another child shows patience, he could be asked to lead a game of Simon Says later in the class.
  • When more serious problems occur, it’s important to deal with them promptly and appropriately. If sanctions become necessary, the following principles are important to remember: 1) Children should know why they are being punished, e.g. “Because you (did such and such a thing), you must wait five minutes before joining the game.” 2) Sanctions should be applied immediately after a child misbehaves, since children—especially younger ones—tend to forget what they have done; 3) Sanctions should be small and reasonable; for example, it doesn’t make sense to deprive a child of playing for five classes in a row.

experience

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