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Discipline is not a four-letter word

Somewhere along the way the word discipline has, for some, become a four-letter word.  Isn't discipline a good thing?  Don't I need discipline to sustain a habit, change my lifestyle, or excel at anything I do.  Isn't it important that I learn self-discipline so I can monitor my own progress toward any goal.  If I don't have it or know what it looks like, isn't it important that I have someone to help guide me there? Now, I know that's probably not what is often meant when people use the term discipline, but therein lies the problem.  If by discipline you mean punishment then say punishment.  Living in the world of connotation opens the door to misunderstandings even when we actually agree.

I don't want to move "beyond discipline"; I want discipline, self-regulation and self-control...and I want it for my students.  I certainly want to move "beyond punishment" to engage in more meaningful dialogue to assist students in understanding where things went wrong, how they can restore their relationships, and how to avoid making the same mistake again.

For schools, discipline plans or systems should be designed as instruments of support & inclusion, NOT removal and isolation. The focus should be on teaching what is socially acceptable within the given context and helping students learn what is and is not appropriate. Students are greatly influenced by the parameters outlined by the adults they interact with and are taught, both directly and indirectly, what is socially acceptable. Do we not celebrate coaches who can instill a disciplined atmosphere within their team? Do students not need discipline to prevent themselves from reacting inappropriately while emotionally charged?

Discipline is a good thing; the misuse of discipline - or mistaking punishment for discipline -  doesn't render the idea of discipline inappropriate or ineffective. Effective school discipline brings a sense of belonging, an atmosphere of inclusion, a feeling of predictability, and a climate of respect.

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Comment by Oscar Marin on December 13, 2013 at 7:00pm

Well said Tom. I really liked your end note saying that people think as punishment as mode of following punishment which is absolutely wrong notion. An effective discipline is creation of norms which a student can will fully abide by abide by. Students do follow such norms outlined by adults when they feel respect for them. So a whole new outlook towards practice of discipline is required. 

Comment by andrew aker on December 12, 2013 at 6:08am

Tim, you are exactly right!   

Let me know if you ever dream of coming to teach in China!  ;) 

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