I have been prompted to write this article following a recent mentoring program that I facilitated at a secondary school in Essex - UK.
I was repeatedly asked by a selection of students why schools impose detentions.
I am certain that many schools if asked the above question would include in their answer that detentions are required in order to manage behaviour. Behaviour management in schools necessitate discipline in many cases.
Let's consider some reasons why students misbehave. Some scholars believe that students misbehave because of the lack of engagement and stimulation in typical school settings.
The acceptable behaviours set by schools may be seen as rigid and therefore difficult for students to comply.
Some students crave attention, acceptance and love which may be lacking in the person's life.
In the U.K, teachers have power to discipline pupils for misbehaviour which occurs in school and, in some circumstances, outside of school. ~ Section 90 and 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
With that in mind, let's look at school discipline. If a teacher believes that a student is being disruptive, fails to adhere to rules, refuses to take instructions, regularly disregards the school's work ethic, bullies another student and for similar reasons , sanctions may be imposed. In doing so, it does not necessarily mean that the teacher dislikes the student or enjoys punishing students but to assist the student in learning to be responsible, organised, caring and loving towards others.
Irrespective of our individual views on detentions and discipline, it is well known that school systems set rules, and if students break these rules they are subject to discipline. In applying discipline, the schools objective often is to set boundaries and to limit various actions and attitudes that could be detrimental, disadvantageous and contravenes school policies, values, beliefs, educational traditions and so on.
There are of course different schools of thought on the subject of discipline in schools. Some that are totally against it have campaigned and successfully led the way towards a shift from discipline and punishment whereby the focus is on alternative methods. Discipline as we know often has a negative connotation and is not welcomed by many students including those that I have been opportuned to work with.
There are however positive aspects of discipline which includes the following:
- Instilling community values in students.
- Creation of a safe and enjoyable learning environment.
- An opportunity to think and learn about consequences and foster good behaviour in and out of school environment.
- Positive growth in social emotional learning.
- Opportunity to learn from past mistakes and work towards improving unacceptable behaviour.
- Understanding and respecting the diversity of values and beliefs within communities.
It is a requirement for schools in the U.K. to have in place a range of options and rewards to reinforce and praise good behaviour, and clear sanctions for those who do not comply with the school’s behaviour policy.
Finally, whilst discipline may be a good cause for managing misbehaviour, schools should ensure that the punishment meted out is reasonable, proportionate and fairly applied. Consideration should be given to children with special educational needs, and disability. At no point should the decision to punish a student be based on their race, ethnicity, religion or any social classification.