NUMBER 244• 8 APRIL 2003 • DISPLAYS OF DIGNITY
INDEX OF QUOTES
Always treat students with dignity. This is perhaps the most important of all the principles, because without dignity students learn to hate school and learning. When we attack students’ dignity, we might get them to follow the rules but we lose them to anger and resentment. Discipline techniques must be compatible with helping students maintain or enhance their self-esteem. Some methods that attack dignity are generally given with put-downs, sarcasm, criticism, scolds, and threats which are delivered publicly. It is easier to treat "good" kids with dignity, although all too often even they feel discounted, ignored, and put down by important adults. Listening to what a student thinks, being open to feedback from students, using I-messages to communicate your feelings to them, explaining why you want something done a certain way and how that will likely be of benefit to the student, and giving students some say in classroom affairs are all ways of communicating dignity to them. The message is: you are important.
It is indeed difficult to be dignified with students who tell you where to go and how to get there! Because we are human, it is understandable that, when our buttons are pressed, we react from the gut. Yet it is precisely during these moments that displays of dignity become all the more necessary for a number of reasons. The student who attacks needs to learn non-attacking ways of dealing with stress. You can truly be a teacher in the purest sense by modeling alternatives during your own stressful moments with the student. Further, if you attack back, then escalation results and the power struggle simply gets worse. It is important that other students see you as capable and strong without being brutal when your or their well-being is disrupted. They need to realize that there are alternatives to full-scale warfare even after the first bomb has been dropped.
"Discipline with Dignity" encourages teachers and other care-givers to be aware of how they communicate their expectations that students correct their behavior. Dignity in discipline can often be accomplished by using privacy, eye contact, and proximity when you need to deliver a corrective message to a student. Make your comments quietly so that only you and the student can hear, with eye contact (being sensitive to possible cultural or emotional issues regarding eye contact), and in close physical proximity.
Mendler, A. N. (1992). What Do I Do When...? How to achieve Discipline with Dignity in the Classroom. Bloomington: National Education Service. pp 41-42