Do Teachers Have the Right to Discipline?

Do Teachers Have the Right to Discipline?

In my previous article, when I analyzed the two methods, the term “discipline” had next to no place. In my view, discipline and class management are crucial. The old Prussian method is commonly associated with the hard hand of the teacher. What does that mean? Discipline can be maintained even with physical force. In Hungary (and in some other countries as well), a teacher’s job was very prestigious. It was not well-paid, but they had respect all around the country. Many classrooms even had a cane stick, which awakened fears in students. If the teacher used it, they screamed a lot in pain. When I volunteered in the People’s Republic of China, I also had a stick like that. Of course, I never used it, because it was only used in the worst-case scenario. Worst case scenario meant a kid talked back to the teacher, which is considered very disrespectful. At that time, it was even more so. Therefore discipline was strict but, at the same time, fair. In the 1950s, when a strong rise in industrialization began, more and more people moved to the city and the cane stick lost its authority. Fortunately, the teacher enjoyed authority and kids did not want to talk back, because they were in fear of the slap. At that time, if the teacher slapped you, you got its other half at home in case you told a tattletale. Therefore you remained silent and prayed so that it did not turn out that way. However, students immediately understood where the borders were. This discipline method is commonly connected to a Soviet-Ukrainian educator, Anton Semyonovich Makarenko (see Call to Action No. 1). In my view, this is acceptable in the worst-case scenario. Let me tell you a true story to conclude this section, which my friend told me who attended the same primary school as I did.

Let us jump back in time to 1977. At that time, Hungary belonged to the Communist camp, so that it was considered to be a big privilege to travel to Western Europe. My school had a famous choir and got invited to an international choir festival in Belgium. Of course, restrictions applied and each kid received 50 francs (which was pretty much nothing) daily. Kids got amazed by the freedom of the West. Nobody paid any attention to them, unfortunately, some people started to steal from shops. A few days later the whole choir got involved in stealing stuff. My friend admitted that he had also stolen a T-shirt. Another few days passed, then those who had started the stealing reported the choir to the teachers. Of course, the headmaster became very furious. He summoned each member, one by one, to a short hearing. My friend was the first to enter the room. The headmaster asked only one question: “Did you steal?” The answer was: “No, I did not!” The headmaster reached across the table and a slap flew. My friend kissed the floor immediately afterwards. His teacher was so angry that, had the table not been there, he would have even kicked the pupil kowtowing on the floor. My friend left the room, but as others saw him, everyone knew that there was no leeway for lies. The stolen stuff was confiscated and thrown into the Rhine. This is what discipline meant. Students were required to be honest with their teachers. If they lied to them, they would be labelled thieves.

If you watched the video I linked to in my previous article, did you notice anything? Were there any pupils talking back? Of course not! The material was about graphs and functions, not about coordinate-geometry. The question of usefulness rises again. If you watch it closely, the teacher was browsing around collecting questions and overseeing the workflow. The teacher appreciated every effort and recognised the good things about students first. Is this technique useful in the long run? In a school, a teacher acts as a real leader to encourage others. This will raise confidence among pupils. This is where class management begins. This is where the “Prussian” method falters. Of course, the teacher has authority over the class. Still, at the same time, he or she earns trust from children, so that they feel assured that they will never be left alone. Again, a teacher who has true leadership skills oversees everything. If children cheat during tests, the teacher will give them a fair punishment, which does deter them from doing it again. Will students be slapped, as discussed above? Maybe, maybe not. According to the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), (see Call to Action No. 2; its controversies will be discussed in my next article), signed by George W. Bush, badly performing and badly disciplined kids can be transferred to another school, but that school is not required to accept them. What does No Child Left Behind mean then? The teacher should keep discipline by keeping the materials interesting and eye-catching. Then he or she condemns excuses because they are not making enough effort. Long story short, pupil-compliance is also a crucial part to reach the desired quality of education. This is where Hungary is underperforming. Therefore many classes are wasted with disciplining while, as you saw in the video, there is no such thing in the USA. Thus without compliance, it will be very difficult to keep order in a class. To end this article, I would like to invite you to make a judgment, “Do teachers have the right to discipline with physical force or should they make as useful materials as possible so that students will eagerly want to comply?” In my view, physical force should only be used in the worst-case scenario when a pupil talks back disrespectfully. However, some people in my country run to the police if a teacher slaps a kid. These parents say such a teacher is aggressive and should be excluded from teaching. For sure, sometimes this argument may be right, but more often than not, it turns out that this slap is a so-called Makarenko one, which “gives students a hand” to discover the limits to their unruly behaviour.

Calls to Action:

  1. Who was Anton Semyonovich Makarenko? Read More About Him.
  2. Learn More About the No Child Left Behind Act.
  3. Do you want to take part in a life-changing experience campaigning Quality Education while teaching English to young kids overseas? Live the experience with AIESEC—sign up, and a local committee will call you for a meeting (note that you must be aged between 18 and 30 to participate).

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

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