Teachers and The Geometry of Discipline


At the present time  our schools hampered by political correctness, permissiveness and “open minds”  are rarely capable of either producing or following laws and rules that make common sense. Often making zero tolerance utterances and rules by fiat based on some current “acceptable” thinking fad.    This is of course is often compounded by our  schools seeming  inability to  draw  a line in the sand no matter how reasonable or needed, at any time, for any reason.   Line drawing is now so out of fashion it has almost become the very definition of  bad teaching. I believe that this failure to draw clear lines is the main reason our schools and our society  are in  trouble today. This is true because its hard to tell which way to go when you don’t know where you are and often times lines define where you are at and where you should go.  Many parents and students are lost in a maze of conflicting desires and rules that no one clearly understands or can delineate and therefore none can follow or arrive at their proper destination.

My father, mother  and several of my teachers for example could draw lines in the sand just by looking at me, lines that I normally dared not cross and when I did cross one I  paid the penalty. I not only paid the penalty I understood that when I crossed the line I was most likely going to have to make that payment and accepted that reality. Today it is often, “Yes I crossed the line now lets negotiate.”     I believe someone somewhere has to start drawing some lines in the sand or at least begin again to enforce lines that have already been drawn or  chaos and anarchy will prevail in many of  our schools and our society.   Perhaps even more ominous and dangerous to our society and our  students are the parents and schools that do draw a line in the sand and then, too easily, ignore it or simply erase it without comment when someone crosses it. Teaching thus by example that in our modern world of grays nothing is black and white even when it should be.  At the present time only five visible lines govern our schools, the racism line, political correctness line, anti-bullying line, the gay and lesbian line, and the gun/weapon line.  All other lines are negotiable and excusable; including those that deal with assault( home life/poverty), swearing(environment), not working( Hyper or Hypo anything or disability), disruption(society/ethnicity), social promotion(social concerns), suspension(unfair and disproportionate), and gang activity( social clubs, no parental involvement).

I know that lines have to be redrawn at times as they fade with use, but they must be enforced until redrawn, erased or re-traced  as new lines and then enforced or their value is nil.  All lines must be definable and defendable in terms that the person or student looking at the line can understand. That is how lines become real and of value.

Even though I am in favor of lines I prefer  lines drawn in sand instead of concrete or with an easily smudgeable #2 pencil rather than indelible ink.  I prefer this because as a teacher I know that every time you make an either/or statement you end up catching the wrong person or discovering a valid exception to your rule. A line etched in concrete stinks of zero tolerance, inability to change as appropriate,  and lack of thought process while a line in the sand or written with a primary fat # 2  by its very definition is observable, may be followed  but also has  soft edges that allow it to be applied humanely and appropriately.

The two paragraphs above may be seen as contradictory however by their very nature reasonable rules, currently in force, must,  for the sake of consistency and honesty  be enforced until they are either altered or deleted. Failure to do so invites future present day confusion, conflict, and chaos things that rules and laws should attempt to reduce not create.

When a child tells you that one of your rules is unfair invite a discussion and listen, defend, explain or change.  Not surprisingly the governed often  have a better idea of what is needed than the government( see US congress/Presidency 2011 for a reference point). It does make  a difference whether your feet are on the ground or your head is in the clouds and when it comes to rules “point of view” is always important.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
This entry was posted in education, Education Reform, Political Correctness, teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teachers and The Geometry of Discipline

  1. HaLin says:

    Thought-provoking, as always. It’s a tight rope walk.

    In some ways but in an entirely different setting, the financial crisis and the whole issue of how much regulation is ‘good’ is similar. There are lines drawn in sand which the ‘kids’ know are negotiable, especially when things get really ugly.

    I really enjoyed this read.

  2. thelastgasp1 says:

    I am in agreement, however, the corrective action (lines in the sand) requires COMMON SENSE to implement. I was raised in an atmosphere that preached “life is hard and sometimes not fair”. I am not sure if that was a by product of the Great Depression or WWII. Over many generations of prosperity this attitude of hard work and joy of achieving a goal through hard work has disappeared. There in lies the rub…in difficult times and situations, it has always been easiest to take the path of least resistance. Concrete lines, black and white, or turning ones back to the situation if there are no concrete rule is, and always has been, the easy way out. History shows that once common sense is taken out of the equation…chaos reigns!

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