Discipline strictures absent

11th July 1997 at 01:00
If your class is under control then you can begin teaching. Having just completed my postgraduate certificate in education which included only one lecture on classroom management, I wish teacher- training institutions would begin to take this on board. Instead of finding myself in front of a class after only a few lectures, in mid-September ("in at the deep end" seems to be the training motto), a PGCE should make you feel prepared. Students should be helped through the minefield of conflicting advice on discipline I know they will receive when in school.

"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

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