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Is Maintaining Discipline Really That Important to the Learning Process?

Depending on the teaching situation, you might think that maintaining discipline isn`t so important. You want the time you spend in the classroom to be fun, instead of wasting time protecting and punishing children. However, did you know that according to estimates, 80 percent of ESL teachers who quit their jobs after the first year do so because of their inability to maintain discipline in their class?

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Tina S.

The Importance of a Good First Impression

Although the word discipline may seem negative, the purpose of discipline is to teach students boundaries that are necessary if they are to achieve personal and academic life goals. Maintaining rules and structure allows the teacher to be more productive in the classroom, making it more successful and enjoyable for everyone. When a teacher starts a new job, they should remember that the first impression is very important. The teacher should always be professional and punctual as discipline begins with the teacher and the rules exist for all. The behavior of the teacher in the first days and weeks of the class sets the tone for how the whole educational process will develop. If the teacher allows bad behavior right from the start, the students will quickly realize that they can get away with it and continue to push the teacher’s limitations until the class deteriorates completely.

Also read: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in the Classroom While Teaching English Abroad

Simple Ways to Aid Discipline in the Classroom

Teachers often create a points based scoring system or similar method for both punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. A scoring system can also provide an additional advantage by encouraging students to control one another’s behavior. Another simple way to aid discipline is by greeting the students individually, knowing their names, and using them in and outside of the classroom. This familiarity can bring the group together and build relationships. Also, although the teacher should only use the students' native language in specific cases, it can be useful to find out the meaning of certain words and phrases, especially the slang used by the students.

Also read: Top 5 Tips: How to Learn a New Language When Teaching English Abroad

When Discipline is Necessary

At times, the teacher may need to resort to punishment. But when it is necessary, what do you do? Firstly, it’s necessary to determine the motives of the rebels. Usually they are driven by the desire to attract the attention of the group or behave badly to get the teacher’s special attention. The essence of their "bad" behavior is demonstrative. The need for attention is a basic psychological need. In fact, students might show that they want to interact with you, but they don’t know how. What will a good teacher do in this situation? Will they start shouting in order to show who is really in charge of the class? Probably this isn’t the right decision.

Every teacher should remember that shouting is a form of repression and humiliation. And this is not at all what we want to achieve with our students. The teacher must gently, without becoming personal, find a solution to the problem. For example, in this situation, the teacher could direct the student’s energy in a more positive direction. The student could become involved as an “assistant” to the teacher, giving them the opportunity to pass out and collect material, write on the board, and so on. Or you can give the student an "important" task - to speak, read something, or write in front of the whole class. In addition, the process must be accompanied by praise of the student that will be perceived not only by him, but by all students as a motivation for good behavior and learning. If it’s impossible to solve the problem in such a way and the teacher needs to reprimand a student, he/she should not do it publicly. You should talk to the student calmly, quietly and carefully, using simple and understandable English so that they can understand the issue and how to fix it.

Also read: 10 Tips to Help Your Students Follow Directions When Teaching English Abroad

Group Dynamics

A lack of initiative and passivity by your students in the classroom may indicate a lack of interest in the subject being studied, which can also lead to poor results. In this instance, the teacher should strive to find a positive group dynamic, rather than the use of classical discipline. If the teacher monitors the dynamics in the lesson, he/she will often see a change in mood, emerging conflicts and boredom, and therefore, can prevent many problems before discipline is required. The teacher is also a member of the group to some extent so you should also monitor your own performance in relation to the atmosphere in the classroom.

If the students become distracted, you need to find the cause. If the class is focused at the beginning and quickly becomes unmanageable when the teacher begins to teach, perhaps his/her lessons are just boring. Therefore, it’s worth making sure that the students are exposed to interesting material with which they can interact. Teachers should also ensure that their lessons consist of the Engage, Study, Activate method as it is very important to alternate between activities and lectures, to give group and individual work, and to regularly change the pace of the lesson.

Also read: The 5 Most Common Types of EFL Students and How to Deal with Them

Other Factors to Consider

The teacher can indirectly receive information about the level of interest in their lessons through feedback from students in the form of a dialogue or printed questions. Also, the teacher can provide a lot of positive feedback. Don`t forget to praise the students, to recognize their contribution and behavior. The teacher should make education interesting, fun and relevant to the lives of their students. Poor planning and an overfull curriculum can cause disruptions. A failure can also occur when a teacher forgets that their students are not native English speakers and they may not understand him/her. To avoid this, the teacher's speech should always be clear and measured.

Also read: 5 Great Ways to Give Your Students Feedback

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