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How much freedom should a classroom teacher have?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by SEBREGIS, Jun 17, 2019.


    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Interesting conversation with a colleague. We were talking about the level of freedom that a teacher should have when it comes to handing out sanctions for poor behaviour. He was of the opinion that the classroom teacher needs to have a discretion. I came down quite heavily on the side of - basically none.

    So if a child breaks a rule, the teacher has no discretion about the consequence, which should be clearly understood before hand and proportionate. Talk when you are not supposed to, that's a demerit. Oh, you were asking for a pen? You understand that you should put your hand up and ask me, otherwise its talking, so yup, that's still a demerit. This separates the teacher from the decision and makes it a simple step of action - consequence, rather than action - negotiation - consequence.

    Another example - a child has their phone out in a lesson. The schools rule is that if a teacher sees a phone, they confiscate it. The child may give all sorts of reasons for their phone being out, they may never have done it before, but - a rule is a rule. And if rules are not applied consistently, children think they may not be applied at all.

    Just wondered what other people think?
  2. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Demerits are loss aversion tactics used by some schools to enforce compliance. They are very effective. However, if someone is punished and they feel injustice at the enforcement of the rule then they will resent you and your school. So the school teacher has to have discretion to ensure justice is done. E.g. a wasp flies into the classroom. These teachers aren’t going around handing out punishments. Little Jimmy stayed with his mother at a refuge last night and doesn’t have a pen or his homework. You are probably going to exercise discretion.
    So the answer is yes, a teacher has discretion to disapply a rule in situations they see fit.
    freckle06, pepper5 and Rott Weiler like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    OK. I take the one about the wasp. Not so sure about the second. I mean - hopefully before it got to writing time, Fred would have spoken to his form tutor and sorted it out. But:

    So Fred does not have a pen, and does not get a demerit. Bob - who never has a pen - does get a demilitarised the same day. Bob now feels aggrieved because Bob does not see a rule being applied fairly.

    How do I explain this to Bob. I mean - not that I feel inclined to, the little sod never even brings a pen - but if I had to, why is that a ‘fair’ application of the rule?

    For the record, I’m not this horrible to students and if anything, I give them too much leeway, this is all hypothetical.
    pepper5 likes this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    I have a feeling I meant to say 'demerit' but autocorrect auto-incorrected....
  5. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    My experience is that Bob, despite being demilitarised, knows that Fred has background issues. The ability of pupils to adapt to their classmate's unique situations never ceased to surprise me. They were always so capable of compassion and generosity.
    Generally, I quite agree - be consistent. But on very hot days, during times where you are thinking, oh you know what, applying discretion is the right thing to do, then I would.
    pepper5 and (deleted member) like this.

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