The school’s primary function is to educate. It provides for the overall formation of the pupils-moral, physical, intellectual and cultural-as illuminated by the gospel message. In order to ensure that each child has the best possible opportunity to learn effectively we place particular emphasis on maintaining a disciplined and orderly school environment. A variety of elements combine to achieve this end, the most crucial factor being the support and co-operation of parents.
In Monkstown Park Junior School our concept of discipline is a positive one. It is based on the principle of establishing and promoting good relationships and mutual respect between all members of the school community. The school’s code of discipline consists of a set of supportive measures designed to help each child grow and develop in a secure environment. Our ultimate aim is to encourage children to take on responsibility for their own behaviour and, through constant discussion and example, to guide them in the process of building up their own personal sense of responsibility and judgment in order to meet the demands which their teenage years and adult life will place upon them. During their formative years in this school the children are encouraged to maintain a high standard of behaviour and work. The support and encouragement of parents is necessary to achieve this objective.The procedures of the school in regard to discipline can be outlined under the following four headings:
(A) School Rules; (B) Classroom Management; (C) Rewards and Sanctions; (D) Parental Involvement.
(A) SCHOOL RULES
On any school day there are about 100 people on the Junior School premises. Just like any community, the school has rules to ensure that everything runs smoothly and purposefully. Our school rules are designed to encourage self-respect and respect for one’s belongings and, equally, respect for others and their property. A considerable number of rules concern the safety and well- being of the children while on the school premises. Many encourage values and attitudes which have a bearing well beyond the school gate, for example those that refer to punctuality, neatness and consideration. Parents can be enormously supportive of the school’s endeavours by discussing the rules with their children and helping them understand why they should be observed. The rules of the school can be summarised thus:
‘All pupils are expected to behave in a responsible manner showing consideration, courtesy and respect at all times’
The most important rules are listed below:
(a) IN SCHOOL PUPILS ARE EXPECTED TO:
1. Be kind, courteous and respectful to all others;
2. Work in a purposeful manner and to the best of their ability;
3. Be punctual and regular in attendance;
4. Bring to school all items, and only those, which are required for the school day;
5. Keep themselves and their belongings neat and clean and their surroundings litter and noise free;
6. Have a signed note when absent, late, leaving early, or if homework is incomplete and have
their Journal signed every night.
(b) AT PLAY PUPILS ARE EXPECTED TO:
1. Wear clothes suitable for the prevailing weather conditions;
2. Remain in the designated play-area during break* and refrain from climbing on walls, banks fences or poles;
3. Play safely, showing consideration for others;
4. Play ball games only when and where permitted;
5. Refrain from riding bicycles in school grounds;
6. Remember that chewing gum should be kept off school premises.
*Pupils, if ill, may only remain indoors at playtime where a note is given stating that the parent accepts responsibility for the child’s conduct and safety during playtime.
(B) CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
Smooth well-functioning classrooms do not just happen. They are the result of consistent efforts on the part of teachers to create, maintain and sometimes restore conditions that help effect learning. Examples of these conditions are outlined under the following categories: (a) physical environment, (b) curriculum planning and (c) teaching techniques.
(a) PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
An enriching and stimulating classroom environment helps to generate and sustain the children’s interest in their classwork. The organisation of classroom furniture to facilitate easy movement throughout the room as well as the assignment of responsibilities to children, such as distributing and collecting materials, are also useful aids in maintaining good classroom order.
(b) CURRICULUM PLANNING
The matching of curricular material to the needs and abilities of individual pupils is the central element in the implementation of our school curriculum. This includes a regular ordered routine of activities, alternating the more demanding and concentrated work (e.g. Maths and written work) with more physically active or relaxing periods (e.g. drama, PE or story-reading).
(c) TEACHING TECHNIQUES
Examples of the many teaching techniques which are used in this school and lead to better behaviour and consequently better learning are:
1. Defining Limits
Teaching children what behaviour is expected of them and what behaviour is beyond limits as well as the consequences of good and bad behaviour.
2. Monitoring Behaviour
In addition to closely monitoring pupil performance and achievement throughout the school year, the teacher also keeps a constant check on pupil behaviour in the classroom, while showing a certain sensitivity to mood changes, individual tensions, etc. which may lead to disruptive behaviour on the one hand (e.g. physical aggression) or withdrawn behaviour on the other hand (e.g. fearful timidity or anxiety).
3. Proximity Control
At times it is necessary to deliberately position a child who tends to distract other pupils nearer to the teacher’s desk. The close proximity of the teacher usually serves as a reminder to keep the pupil’s mind on the task.
(C) REWARDS AND SANCTIONS
In promoting the positive behaviour of pupils there is a clear emphasis on implementing a system of rewards rather than sanctions. Such rewards can be summarised as follows:
(a) Praise and Encouragement
Every effort is made to point out good behaviour and to praise it particularly in the case of children who regularly misbehave so that some positive reinforcement is given for good effort. Such praise and encouragement is not just confined to verbal comments. Written comments in pupil’s journal when they have behaved well and especially when they have shown an improvement in behaviour are often used.
Good behaviour is also positively reinforced and rewarded by assigning of special responsibilities in terms of classroom jobs, the opportunity to become group or class leaders, or the earning of special privileges such as ‘homework off’ at the weekend.
Clearly in imposing any sanction on a child it must be understood that it is the behaviour that is rejected and not the child. Every effort is also made on the part of both teachers and parents to discover the reasons for misbehaviour and to help the child to overcome the problem. The main sanctions used in Monkstown Park Junior School are summarised below:
(a) In Class
In many cases a word of caution from the teacher is sufficient to deal with a behavioural problem. Occasionally it becomes necessary to move a child to a separate work area in the classroom on a short term basis to prevent the distraction of other children and to encourage quiet independent work. Other sanctions make include detention at playtime, additional work or loss of privilege, e.g. being assigned homework at weekends or detention after school.
When a behavioural problem persists, despite the application of internal classroom measures, the matter is referred to the Principal. When behavioural problems occur at school the parents in question will be informed by way of a note or a request for a meeting to discuss the problem with the class teacher and/or Principal. In all cases where incidents of serious misbehaviour occur the Principal is informed.
Only in very serious circumstances is suspension considered (e.g. repeated instances of physical assault or verbal abuse of other children, vandalism or verbal abuse of teachers).
For a very serious offence or when all sanctions have been exhausted.
(D) PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
The role of the parent in implementing the school discipline policy cannot be over-emphasized. The foundations for good discipline are laid long before a child comes into our care and are subsequently altered by home or social influences completely outside the control of the school. Our role is limited by the fact that a relatively small proportion of the child’s time is spent in school. We would hope that parents would notify their child’s teacher of any circumstances at home which might adversely affect their child’s performance or behaviour in school. Such information would be treated in strictest confidence by the school. Parents should aim to keep in constant touch with the progress of their child in school. Parents are asked, in particular, to be consistent in signing their child’s Journal. Indiscipline, misconduct or the continuous disruption of disorderly pupils interferes not only with the education of the child who misbehaves, but can also adversely affect the education of other children in the class. While we try to meet each situation with sympathy and kindness, serious breaches of discipline or continuous misconduct will be dealt with firmly. We expect co-operation and support from parents on such occasions should we have to ask for it as communication between parents and school will lead to a quick resolution of the problem. The members of our staff gladly make themselves available to meet parents at all times.
Bullying (either verbal or physical) is completely unacceptable behaviour and will not be tolerated in Monkstown Park Junior School.
Bullying can occur anywhere-in the classroom, the schoolyard, the corridor, the toilet etc. and everyone is expected to ensure that this does not happen. If bullying is discovered, there is a responsibility to tell the teacher- this is not telling tales.
Playful teasing is part of everyone’s experience as a child and is harmless. Children, too, must learn to take fair and reasoned criticism from their peers. However, verbal bullying is another matter altogether and is not tolerated in the school. Verbal bullying can be clearly distinguished from playful teasing and constructive criticism. Firstly, there is malicious intent behind the remarks- they are cruel and wounding. Secondly, the victim will be clearly upset or confused by the attack. Thirdly, the verbal abuse generally continues over a period of time and regardless of its obvious effects on the victim.
Cyber bullying has been described as an extension of traditional bullying with technology providing the perpetrator with another way to abuse their target. Cyber bullying can therefore take the form of identity based bullying such as racist or homophobic bullying. When bullying behaviour is carried out through the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, mobile phones, instant messaging (IM), social networking websites, apps, and other online technologies it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with and goes beyond the traditional boundaries of the school environment. Being the target of nasty or hurtful messages is the most common form of online bullying. While current evidence shows that it is teenagers who experience more electronically mediated forms of bullying, a 2012 report provides evidence that cyber bullying may be on the increase with 13.9% of 12–16 year olds reporting that they had been cyber bullied ‘in the last couple of months’ “Cyber-Bullying: the situation in Ireland” (2012).
During school hours, teachers will guide pupils toward appropriate use of the internet; outside school, parents/guardians should bear the same the same responsibility for such guidance.
It is important therefore that teachers and parents/guardians:
- discuss rules for using the internet and decide with the children what constitutes appropriate use;
- ensure the children are aware that they should not give out personal information on the internet;
- encourage children not to respond to any unwelcome, unpleasant or abusive messages and to inform their
teachers or parents/guardians if they receive any such messages or images; and
- ensure that computers are used in the sight of a responsible adult
If a parent is anxious about any aspect of a child’s school life, the following procedure should be adopted:
(a) The matter should be discussed with the class teacher.
(b) If this proves unsatisfactory, the matter should be taken up with the Principal.
(c) Where all else fails the matter can be referred, in writing only, to the Board of Management.
We stress again the importance of communication between parents and teachers. The education of the children in our care is the joint responsibility of home and school. One cannot succeed without the help of the other.