Discipline In a Chinese Classroom| 4 min read

Discipline can be a difficult thing to get right, especially in a classroom where each child responds differently to reprimands and punishment. In an actual Chinese school there are almost no rules regarding discipline, and the teacher decides what is the most appropriate way to deal with problems.

Sometimes it takes getting creative to work through problems with the students in the most effective and ethical way. Here are some suggestions on doing so whilst teaching in China.

Students of all ages act very respectfully towards  foreign teachers, often because they understand the importance of the English language. Therefore, a teacher of English is unlikely to encounter too many behaviour related issues in the classroom. Chinese students are under enormous amounts of pressure; the one child policy means that parents now have one chance to raise a child that will ultimately be able to support them in old age. Thus, being “real” is a good and advisable way to work with the kids. While treating them as their maturity deserves, it is important to make sure they know you are the teacher and will not put up with any hanky-panky!

Older Children

Interns who are working with older students can create a punishment called “A One Page Story.” Because the students need to learn English, this is both effective for their learning (even if they don’t realize it) and as a punishment. The subject of these stories can consist of almost anything, just as long as they write it out on a piece of paper by themselves. This can be used for all types of problems, from talking in class, to using a phone in class, to not completing their assignment.

When problems arise from the use of devices such as i-pods, i-pads and phones, in most cases taking it away from the students, either for the rest of class or for the day if you are at a boarding school, is acceptable. This might not stop the problem completely, but after several incidents the student should refrain from using that device during class, or whenever it is disrupting.

Younger Children

For smaller children it can be slightly more difficult to think of effective ways to encourage them to behave. Yet a little creativity can go a long way with Kindergarten students to 3rd graders. Giving the opportunity of a prize at the end of class for good behaviour can be effective. From the very first class, it is good to establish a set of class rules. Of these rules it is best to pick the most important ones that you want to enforce, because obviously not every rule can be continually enforced throughout every class. Be sure to deal with problems before they get under your skin so that you can deal with it before your emotions make it difficult to think clearly. Always remain calm, if you lose your temper in front of the class it will cause both students and other teachers to lose respect for you.

Even if a student habitually breaks a rule or disrupts the class, approaching the lesson the next day expecting the same behaviour from that student, makes it more likely to happen. However, if you come to the class everyday, tell the kids what you expect from them that day and show them you are serious, things can actually start to change. Along the same lines when one student shows the signs of being a “good student” you should reward and praise them, thus setting a good example. However, be careful not to show favoritism. Treating every student the same will help to encourage the body of students to collectively be and do their best.

This website has more detailed ideas that can also get you started. Articles talks more specifically about discipline in a Chinese classroom, which can help to refine your ideas towards the types of children you will be working with. As suggested in another article about the differences of working in a Chinese classroom, one’s way of thinking about teaching has to change, and so do disciplinary methods.

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