A teacher was about to give his first lesson in a school for delinquent boys. He was very apprehensive. Success and failure hinged on this first meeting. As the teacher walked briskly to his desk, he stumbled and fell. The class roared in hilarious laughter. The teacher rose slowly, straightened up, and said, : “This is my first lesson to you: A person can fall flat on his face and still rise up again.” Silence descended. Then came applause. The message was received.
The teacher was a true disciplinarian. He used the force of wisdom to affect events. In a moment of distress he influenced children not with threats and punishment but with his power of personal response. His words touched on inner yearnings and turned disruption into contemplation.
The essence of discipline is finding effective alternatives to punishment. To punish a child is to enrage him and make him uneducable. He becomes a hostage of hostility, a captive of rancor, a prisoner of vengeance. Suffused with rage and absorbed in grudges, a child has no time or mind for studying. In discipline whatever generates hate must be avoided. Whatever creates self-esteem is to be fostered.
The most effective attitude toward discipline was summed up by an experienced teacher: “I assume that pupils come to school with a distorted self-image. I take for granted their precarious self-respect. Therefore, in dealing with children I am cautious. I am aware that my comments touch on inner feelings. I am sensitive not to lessen self-esteem. I am careful not to diminish self-worth.”
Unlike ships, human relations founder on pebbles, not reefs. A teacher can be most destructive or most instructive in dealing with everyday disciplinary problems. His instant response makes the difference between condemnation and consolation, rage and peace. Good discipline is a series of little victories in which a teacher, through small decencies, reaches a child’s heart.
Teachers, attuned to the chaos and violence of our times, are aware that schools have not escaped the modern mood of madness. What in the past was merely a classroom incident may now turn into a Sit-in, a protest march, a demonstration, a strike.
The inner landscape of many children is full of mines ready to explode upon careless contact. Any insulting remark can set off an explosion.
Ginott, H. (1972). Teacher and Child: A book for parents and teachers. New York: MacMillian Company, pp 147-149