Why Student Voice is Critical for Managing Discipline When Schools Reopen

The imparting of education in schools under the current circumstances has undergone a radical change. The ongoing global pandemic has made it incredibly difficult for everyone concerned to communicate in the absence of actual, physical school infrastructure. But students, teachers and school administrators are all trying their very best to maintain regularity. 

A semblance of normality has returned with the help of their combined effort to conduct daily classes using online means. Every possible endeavor is being made to see that no student faces a loss in their elementary and secondary school education. For it is the formative years of every school-going child that is at stake right now, and there should be no stone left unturned to make the best out of these trying times.

But things are beginning to look up. Vaccines have been developed in Oxford that are soon to undergo advanced trials in different countries all over the world. In India, the mortality rate of those affected by the corona-virus has been fortunately low. It is but a matter of time that schools open again and the normality returns which is the reward of our endurance.

Teachers and school authorities ought to brace themselves for the time, hopefully soon, when schools reopen. Getting back to the old, familiar routine would not be as easy as it might seem. Managing discipline and punctuality right from day one would be no piece of cake. Teachers would be as much responsible for maintaining propriety as students. It would take just a bit of time to get readjusted to life in school as it used to be.

Initiatives taken by teachers would play just as big a role in establishing discipline in school as the involvement of students. It has to be a co-operative process. Paying attention to what students have to say about their life during lockdown, electing student body representatives to voice the collective concerns of students, etc. would be key components in sustaining order and discipline in school.

Following is a list of the reasons and brief descriptions thereof elaborating why student voice is critical in managing discipline when schools reopen:

School and Identity

Before the corona crisis had begun, students were accustomed to the age-old practice of going to school and then attending morning assemblies, learning in classrooms, playing in the school playground, etc. Having ample opportunities to explore themselves in the school premises gave students an institution to identify with. Suddenly, with the invasion of the pandemic in their lives, school, which is the physical embodiment of their educational identity, was taken away from them. Now, however indefinite or temporary this absence of school is, it has created a hollow in their lives. Although schoolchildren, not being adults, are unaware of such terminologies, they are actually encountering an identity crisis of sorts.

The Absence of School: The Desire for Discipline

The continued lack of access to the school campus has psychological as well as physical consequences. At first, it is all fun and games when it feels like a prolonged holiday. But gradually, the gravity of the situation starts making its presence felt. The necessity of school dawns on every student with increasing urgency. They start yearning for the punctuality and the disciplined way of life that school provides and inculcates in them from a very young age. At home for days, students find themselves restive and irritable, making their parents anxious as well.

Classes and examinations conducted online are but inadequate substitutes for activities done within school. The resourcefulness of the school library, the freedom of the school playground, the fun and frolic during recess time, all are dearly missed by students. For these too had their fair shares in the maintenance of discipline by striking the balance between order and enjoyment.

Reaction to Reintroduction: The Co-existence of Enthusiasm and Order

When schools reopen, the reintroduction of proper school experiences would be overwhelming for students and teachers alike. But unlike the latter, students would hardly be able to contain their emotions. Being young, they would be eager to relive every school activity with great vigour and enthusiasm. It should be the onus of every teacher to harness and properly channelize the unbridled energy of students into engagements that are beneficial for the school as a whole.

Repeated Readjustments: Primary Pupil Priority

It has been especially tough for students of primary and pre-primary classes to acclimatize themselves to digital forms of collective communication so that regular classes can be organised and conducted smoothly. If adjusting themselves to online means of instruction has been hard, readjusting to actual classroom learning would be just as arduous. Such frequent alterations in the mode of education are bound to make an impact on students who are but children. Being patient with initially inattentive students who are slowly but steadily readapting themselves in the school environment would prove vital in disciplining them. 

Teachers would feel more in control once they are able to teach in classrooms again. They should use this to their advantage by directly asking students about the problems they are facing and helping them if and when needed.

Creativity and Discipline

Changing from one system to another, and then getting used to the original system of learning and teaching again cannot be done overnight. As much as students are made to obey the orders and instructions of their teachers, schools should also provide sufficient space to students to express themselves in order to cope with the renewed normal circumstances.

The mutual sharing of experiences of quarantine life should be encouraged. Important lessons should be taught using the lockdown period as a frame of reference, such as the consequences one faces for taking things granted. Finding organised means of expression, whether it be written exercises, speeches, or art and cultural activities performed in the school auditorium, students would once again be able to redeem their temporarily lost school identity. This would enable schools to establish the perfect equilibrium between creativity and discipline.

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