Discipline with Dignity

One of the oldest traits of effective teaching and responsive learning is the ability to reward and to punish. However, the question that remains is whether one can exist without the other. Can there truly be punishment without reward, and can there be reward without punishment? The answer remains that both must coexist.

That brings us to the topic of school discipline systems; do suspensions and expulsions really help create an environment conductive to teaching and learning in schools? Should schools have "zero tolerance" policies in order to establish order? What can schools do to assess and address challenges faced with student behaviour?

A safe and orderly environment has become a precondition for academic achievements. With schools' juggling between raising academic achievements and establishing order, is there a winning formula?

There are many questions that remain; Should schools have tough exclusionary discipline policies? namely, the question of whether removing disruptive students creates an orderly and safe environment for student who conform to school rules or should schools seek alternative strategies that can prevent the occurrence of problematic behavioural patterns and promote the display of appropriate behaviour in schools and classrooms and what are the tools? Research suggests that harsh discipline practices actually aren't good for anyone! On the contrary, high levels of out of school suspension in a school over time are associated with declining academic achievement.

The secret to effective disciplinary performance is proactively building relationships and not reacting punitively to student misbehaviour. Educators need to build positive relationships with the students. Engaging the students to determine class rules provides ownership and thus accountability. Focusing the students on set goals and frequently discussing their achievements also encourages effective learning. Consistency is key among school staff primarily about expectations and discipline methods. Moreover, reinforcing positive behaviour and implementing a set reward system on agreed characteristics of good behaviour will boost overall morale. Last but not the least, maintaining student dignity, corrective behaviour that is respectful to human rights and the maintenance of student dignity leads to a school that is primarily safe. A safe school is a school that is conductive to learning, is effective in the personal development of its students, and ensures a positive environment.

In essence, these strategies are universal; how they play out in each school is ultimately contextual.