"Start off strict, and you can soften-up later" was the only universally accepted philosophy, and I discovered that even this was only half correct. "Start off strict, and get stricter" would have been more helpful, as teachers who have experienced "honeymoon periods" (which last for a few lessons before the pupils give you real trouble), will realise.
Differences between teachers who discipline through reasoning, produce difficulties for students hoping to follow good practice. Shouting at pupils can show that you are serious, and make up for the lack of genuine sanctions in school today, but indicates to pupils - and fellow teachers - a lack of control in your lesson. The solution seems to be to generate an atmosphere of firmness, which is extremely difficult to define or copy, and I cannot see the difference in actions between those teachers who are able to achieve this, and those who are not.
The teachers with the best discipline do not seem to have to do anything to maintain it, and so observing their actions provides little clue to achieving discipline. As a result, I feel that the subject of "how to achieve an orderly class" is the most esoteric, as well as the most important lesson a teacher has to learn, and one which the wealth of advice in schools seems only to confuse, and the decision to virtually avoid the subject in training institutions is of little help.
CRAIG VINCENT 17 Burton Drive Rackheath Norwich