The previous two posts on Discipline vs. Teachable Moments sought to bring meaning and distinction to these two activities. The final post in this series offers four important questions for reflection, which might help you decide the appropriate course of action, depending on the situation.
What were the student’s actions?
It’s important to begin by simply analyzing the actions because it’s important to ensure that you’re acting in accordance with school and district policies. Additionally, depending on the severity of the actions, you might be obligated to take legal recourse.
What were the student’s motivations?
Identifying a student’s motivations is one of the surest ways to assess the possibility of a teachable moment. In a way, a teachable moment is a redirection of personal motivation. Students are often deeply misunderstood, or at least they feel that’s the case. If a student feels understood, and even sympathized with, he or she will be more open to conversation.
What are the student’s circumstances?
In movies, characters are often portrayed as entirely good or bad. In reality, this is never the case. It’s important to understand the student’s circumstances, which inevitably impact his or her identity and decisions. There’s value in knowing the extent to which a student’s circumstances form their decisions because you will have an acute sense of the underlying issues that motivate them.
Do you see in the student a willingness to be honest with you?
When a good student faces discipline, an anxiety will stir within them. Let’s not fool ourselves: predominantly, they’re scared of getting into trouble. This fear and anxiety—however cheap and fleeting it might be—can be used to your advantage. Kids will listen when they’re worried about the consequences of their actions. If you see in the student a willingness to be honest, take advantage and instruct.
Both teachable moments and discipline will make a better tomorrow, but teachable moments surpass discipline in excellence. If good values are imparted to students, the need for discipline as punishment will decline. Therefore, teachable moments should be sought after when possible, and discipline should be used when necessary.
Part 1: Discipline vs. Teachable Moments: Defined
Part 2: The Real Differences Between Discipline and Teachable Moments
Part 3: 4 Important Questions When Deciding Between Discipline and Teachable Moments