Dealing with indiscipline

All students should be treated with dignity and respect.

All students should be treated with dignity and respect. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The word ‘discipline’ is a positive term but often has negative connotations. While many believe it is the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to discipline students, the latter do not want to discuss or even use the word. How should teachers treat students who misbehave with them?  What sort of punishment should be given? This was being debated recently in the wake of some videos and social media posts about government school students in Tamil Nadu misbehaving with their teachers.

When the issue was raised in the State Assembly, School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi responded that such students would be dismissed from school and the cause of expulsion mentioned in the conduct and transfer certificates.  Ever since, Poyyamozhi has been getting a lot of flak from educators and activists, though some teachers have welcomed the announcement.  

Constructive approach required

Expulsion and mentioning the cause of expulsion in their conduct certificates will not solve the issue. This is a destructive approach that will neither help the students correct themselves nor improve the situation in schools.  The government should study the situation and find out why indiscipline is on the rise and take steps to tackle the issue in a constructive manner. 

Do students misbehave with teachers and act in an undisciplined manner? Yes.  Is it only government school students who behave thus?  No.  The problem exists and, in some cases is rampant, even in private schools.  How do they tackle such problems?  Some private school authorities deal with the issue wisely and in a non-threatening manner but some react in an aggressive way.  Often incidents in private schools are not reported and don’t see the light of the day.

When talking to some government school teachers and students about tackling this issue, some teachers felt that, while the problem was not new, it is on the rise post-COVID. They also felt that there were students who were highly motivated and respected teachers. Some students behave badly because they do not know the purpose of coming to school. As the current system allows everyone to get promoted to the next level, some students think that they can easily pass exams and indulge in undisciplined activities.  A teacher said that a student who attended classes for just three days in a one academic year was promoted to class 10. Maintaining discipline in a class with such students is a big challenge. 

Is it possible to discipline students? Some teachers do sound positive. Soosai Rathinam, a teacher-educator working in a government institution, says that teachers who are good at understanding the psychology of students can bring about change. A few others too agree that the situation can be improved if teachers are willing to listen to students empathetically and spend time with them.   

Positive changes

The fact that most students who misbehave are not good at studies should make the government have a clear pass/promotion policy. Students who do not attend classes regularly or show academic progress should not be promoted.  An “all pass” policy will do more harm to students and create discipline problems in the classroom.   

Teachers are expected to play multiple constructive roles today.  Beyond teaching their subjects, they should play the role of counsellors and have have a moral responsibility to shape the student’s personality. Teachers with training in counselling can make students feel comfortable, listen to them, talk about their learning needs, and know how to manage them in different situations. Such teachers know the importance of treating students with dignity.  Unfortunately, teachers in many schools have not been trained to provide counselling to students.  The need of the hour is to train government school teachers in counselling and classroom management. This will have a positive impact on the student community.    

Another step is to have an active Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in every school to create awareness among parents about the importance of taking responsibility for their children’s learning and behaviour and being in close contact with teachers to know their wards’ progress. Parents should have a say on the disciplinary action to be taken in cases of indiscipline. A healthy working relationship between teachers and parents will definitely have a positive impact on students.  All students should be treated with dignity and respect. Terrorising them with inhuman rules will not bring about a change.

The writer is an English Language Teaching (ELT) resource person and education columnist. 

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2022 4:27:18 pm |