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Positive Alternatives to Old-Fashioned Punishment

Positive Alternatives to Old-Fashioned Punishment | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Are there alternatives to punishment? In this essay, we will explore what punishment sought to achieve within a classroom environment versus its applicability when seeking alternatives. Particular attention will be placed on measures that teachers may promote to achieve a class-culture that favors deterrence above sanction.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Aaron T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

What is punishment?

Before we can understand what punishment promotes and if possible alternatives are available, we must first know what punishment is within the parameters of a classroom.

“Punishment involves some kind of unpleasantness or infliction of pain; it is imposed as a consequence of violating rules, and it is imposed by someone in authority”. (Peters & Hirst, 1970) We can already see by the aforementioned definition punishment involves a potential element of pain, this poses a complexity; firstly in that teachers are at the helm of educating-placing themselves continually in a position of responsibility in determining whether it is appropriate to punish a learner whom they are not the natural parent/guardian of; secondly the question arises as whether ‘pain’ is appropriate when implemented as means of promoting order, control, accountability and respect for the rules of classroom authority?

teacher punishes students

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Should teachers avoid it?

It is strongly preferred that teachers avoid inflicting pain as a means of discipline toward students moreover when educating younger learners. Emotional development must not be undermined when teaching younger learners as their stage of development is fragile thus physiologically, they are ill-equipped to deal with stress appropriately (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2014), making the teacher's attitude the first pivotal step in pursuing alternate forms of punishment. Teachers should thus remain vigilant of their students to identify potential underlying issues that are manifesting of behavior that is warranting sanction.

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A teacher with a positive attitude is likely to set and lead by a good example, learners will respond better to this as it is a non-accusatorial method of preserving respect for authority. Rules which are set do not require threats before being breached. If parameters are clearly outlined and defined in a digestible form for learners, they will be encouraged to see the practical applications of avoiding penalties. Where the need for punishment arises amongst learners and the intervention of class authority is required the figure of authority should not prevent learners from negotiating or establishing a compromise between themselves.

teacher punishes boy

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Respect and Authority

Learners may not exclusively decide on an equitable way forward, however; ultimately the teacher or classroom authority must have the final say and could thus be seen as an arbitrator; as he or she arbitrates over the decision and makes a final order that is in line with the culture, norms, and practices of the particular learning institution. Similarly, a solely complacent or passive approach may create a situation counter-productive to a conducive learning environment. If respect for the authoritative body and rules are not adhered to by learners more time would be expended on establishing and maintaining order instead of educating.

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In contemplation of alternatives to punishment; punishment may not be completely removed as it cannot be static, it is applicable in establishing and maintaining order when curtailed or varied and used alongside positive re-enforcements. When this is performed responsibly and in line with the prescribed punishment procedure of a learning institution it should be evident that all the aims of punishment can be achieved without concern of grooming a potentially hostile class culture for either teacher or learner thus making variations to punishment practical alternatives.

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