The Real Differences Between Discipline and Teachable Moments

In my previous post, I set out to define what discipline and teachable moments mean through a real-life example that might be similar to what you have dealt within in your school or district. Very clearly, both discipline and teachable moments can be helpful. It’s also possible for a disciplinary action to be a teachable moment.

While similar (and even compatible), there also are many differences between the two:

  • Discipline shows students that they did something wrong, according to the people in charge. Teachable moments convince students that they, in fact, did something wrong.
  • Due to the finesse required, teachable moments are far rarer in occurrence, whereas discipline is relatively easy and common.
  • Discipline is enforced authoritatively, whereas teachable moments require the art of bringing a student to see and sympathize with your point of view. It’s quite likely that the same people inside your school or district aren’t responsible for discipline and teachable moments.
  • Discipline requires little or no preparation or meaningful involvement in a student’s life, whereas teachable moments occur more often in the context of a healthy relationship between yourself and your students.
  • Teachable moments can be thought of as building or encouraging good character, whereas discipline might be regarded as punishing bad character.

Despite these differences, it’s wrong to think that discipline and teachable moments are incompatible with one another or that one is right and the other wrong. Each has its time and place, and sometimes even discipline can be instructive for students. It takes a good educator to recognize when discipline is appropriate and when teachable moments can happen. It takes a greater person to begin building the relationship and planting the seeds that make teachable moments happen.

With definitions and distinctions covered, the next post focuses on the practical side, offering questions for reflection on what course of action is appropriate for a particular situation.

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

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