When we talk of discipline in schools, there are usually two perspectives; from the children’s point of view, it is seen as something to rebel against as they are ‘hard-wired’ to do the contrary of what we expect them to do. For teachers, it can become the bane of their lives as they struggle with class-loads of seemingly unruly children who don’t want to learn.
I think it is more complex than that. It is often expected that schoolchildren will already know how to behave in order to learn, and that is where the problem appears to start.
Behaviour (and misbehaviour) is something which is learned, modelled, observed and copied every minute of the day. Adults’ behaviour is the most important determinant of children’s behaviour. From an early age children learn they can get what they want through their behaviour.
In my experience, it has been vitally important to establish a ‘climate for learning’, when the conditions are right for learning to take place. This is even more important now that the new Ofsted inspection framework has behaviour as one of its four judgements – without a positive climate for learning, it is very difficult to teach.
We have to teach children the good behaviours we want them to learn, such as how they enter the classroom, how they get themselves ready to learn and the importance of listening to others. If we want to encourage good behaviour we need to recognise and reward it when it happens.
And when things go wrong, there have to be consequences. Sanctions let the child know their behaviour is unacceptable.
If a child is sent out of class for lack of work (and in my school they will already have had three opportunities to correct their behaviour), they must make up the time and catch up on the work missed. Chatting, playing with objects and ignoring the teacher will all have an impact on learning.