Being a teacher in a school, college, or university isn’t easy, especially when you’re first getting started.

Almost every staff member has the authority to punish students within the confines of the educational establishment’s disciplinary code. Teachers can dish out punishments for students who misbehave, interrupt classes, or break the school’s rules. A teacher should know these rules, too.

From warnings to expulsion, you need to understand why we punish students, how to effectively punish students, and the right ways to go about it. Here’s Superprof’s guide to effectively disciplining students.

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Why Do We Punish Students?

Almost every teacher would agree that they don’t want to have to ever punish students. A punishment will mean that the student is doing something they’re not supposed to and this often means that they’re disrupting the class.

Why should you punish students?
We shouldn't punish them for making mistakes, but rather correct their behaviour and conduct in class. (Source: Vladvictoria)

“Let the punishment be equal with the offence.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

This Roman is correct. Punishments need to match the transgression. Similarly, punishment needs to have meaning, be constructive, and discourage the student from making the same mistakes.

There are many ways to punish students, but punishments should always be understood by the student.

Firstly, a student should be made aware that what they’re doing is wrong and unacceptable. It’s a good idea to make the rules clear to every student on the very first day.

Furthermore, the punishment should be educational and teach the student about what they did, why it’s wrong, and why they should avoid doing it again in the future. This doesn’t always need to be an academic lesson, either, students can learn life lessons from their punishments.

There’s no point in punishing someone if they won’t learn from the punishment. Instead, be smart when punishing students so that they’ll get something out of their punishment. However, in some cases, suspension or expulsion may be unavoidable.

As a teacher, you mightn’t get to make the call on whether a student is suspended or expelled. Usually, these measures are saved only for the very worst transgressions. Similarly, suspension and expulsion can ruin a student’s life so they’re not to be taken lightly.

For lighter punishments, you should remember that they should only be used as a last resort. If warnings and explanations haven’t worked, you may be forced to punish the student. Similarly, don’t be needlessly severe with your punishments.

Find out more about teaching

Punishments that Fit the Crime

Any punishment you give to a student should fit the wrongdoing that they’re guilty of. Light punishment for serious misbehaviour will teach students that they can do what they want and heavy punishments for small transgressions will make students think you’re unreasonable.

What is an appropriate punishment for a student?
Punishment shouldn't be cruel or unusual, it should teach the student what they did wrong and allow them to learn how to avoid it in the future. (Source: Anemone123)

Similarly, your punishments have to be in line with the school’s disciplinary procedure. You can’t just make up the rules yourself and punish as you see fit. Generally, students will be punished for the following:

  • Not respecting basic classroom rules like raising their hand, waiting their turn to speak, listening to others, etc. Generally, these can be addressed with warnings and explanations.
  • Disobeying the teacher. If a student refuses to do as the teacher tells them, they may be punished.
  • Disrespecting their classmates. This can be insulting, taunting, or mocking other students.
  • Disrespecting the teacher. In this case, the teacher needs to remain level-headed and not let their feelings cloud their judgement of what constitutes an appropriate punishment.
  • Bullying. Generally, bullying is ongoing harassment of a particular student and is often met with stricter punishments. It’s taken far more serious than isolated issues of students disrespecting one another.
  • Using banned substances.
  • Physical violence towards students or staff.

As we mentioned, punishments will usually reflect the type of incident. Basic behavioural infractions can be dealt with in a matter of minutes.

Make sure not to abuse your position of power as it can sometimes be too easy to make a statement about the severity of your punishment.

You can’t punish students for poor results. You can punish students for not doing the work, but punishing students for failing can be counterproductive.

As a teacher, you need to be neutral and calm when deciding on punishments and not let any biases get in the way. Again, this will all come with experience.

Find out how to earn your students' respect

Different Types of Punishment

There are a few ways to intelligently punish students. Again, use the appropriate punishment.

  • Note the transgression in their record or report.
  • Have the student write a letter of apology.
  • Instead of giving them lines, have them recopy their notes from the class.
  • Give them additional homework.
  • Reduce their break time (depending on the school’s disciplinary code) or deprive them of a reward.
  • Detention (depending on the school’s practices)
  • Send the student out of class
What types of punishment are there?
Consider allowing students to learn from their errors rather than trying to make an example of them. (Source: 14995841)

Don’t forget that humiliating and demeaning punishments should be fully avoided and that corporal punishment is illegal. We’ve come a long way since caning students and cruel and unusual punishments that do more damage than good.

Before you consider a punishment, remember that there are guidelines and suggestions available out there.

Don't forget that a child's behaviour in the classroom might be due to an underlying problem that you aren't aware of. If you have concerns that any of the children in your class are experiencing issues at school or at home, make sure you speak to the appropriate authorities.

Learn how to make your students concentrate in class

Suspension and Expulsion

Unfortunately, schools sometimes have to suspend or expel students. Just like employees being suspended from work, students can be suspended from school either temporarily or permanently.

Why are students suspended or expelled?
Generally, students only face suspension for being a risk or a danger to other students and teaching staff. (Source: mnplatypus)

Again, this punishment is only for very special cases and a student can’t be suspended just for talking too much in class! On the other hand, when other means of punishment have been ineffective or the student is a danger to the other students, suspension and expulsion may be considered.

Generally, this decision is left up to the school and is exercised following their disciplinary procedure. When it comes time to kick a student out of school, there’ll normally be a meeting with the student and their parents.

From there, there are a couple of options:

  • Temporary suspension: The student won’t be allowed to return to school for a set number of days.
  • Expulsion: The student is no longer attends the school and will not be allowed to attend any classes or go to the school.

Hopefully, you now know a bit more about punishing students and how to use punishments effectively. To learn more, check out our other articles.

Learn about how teachers should dress

If you'd like help with teaching, you could always look to private tutors. On Superprof, there are tutors for a large variety of subjects as well as those who specialise in teaching or pedagogy.

There are different types of tutoring available so you must consider the pros and cons of each before you decide which would work best for you and what you want to learn.

Face-to-face tutoring is excellent if you have specific things you want to learn and work on as the tutor can tailor every lesson to you. These tutors tend to charge more than others as they spend extra time outside of the lessons planning and adapting their resources to the student. However, this also makes them the most cost-effective type of tutoring because every minute of the lesson is spent working with you.

Group tutorials are great for those on a budget as the cost of the tutor's time is shared amongst several students. This does mean that you won't be able to get lessons that are tailored specifically to you, but if you're looking to brush up on your subject, for example, this type of learning approach could be very useful and affordable.

If you can't find any suitable or available tutors in your local area, you can always broaden your search to include private online tutors from all over the country and around the world. As long as you have a webcam and a decent internet connection, there's no limit to how far away your tutors can be.

Don't forget that a lot of tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Once you've found a few tutors that you think could be suitable, get in touch with them to arrange a free lesson. You can try out several tutors before deciding upon the one that's right for you and how you like to learn.

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