Managing a classroom full of energetic youngsters might not be easy and Khmer teachers are tempted to use violence on children. But Yai, a teacher at Por Preuk Primary School has learnt a new way to discipline children without using violence.
Mr. Yai Chann, 31, has worked as a teacher for nine years. The son of illiterate parents, Yai dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I am passionate about teaching and I try to explain everything to my students. I would like to transfer my knowledge to the next generation,” he said. Yai teaches Grade 5 at Por Preuk Primary School in Kampot province, 150km from Phnom Penh.
Teaching is not an easy job and Yai initially found it difficult to manage a classroom full of energetic youngsters. He would use sticks to punish them when students misbehaved. Some students were afraid of him and would not approach him because of this.
Then, in 2016, Yai and other teachers at Por Preuk Primary School participated in training on positive discipline and effective classroom management, provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, with support from UNICEF Cambodia.
Yai enjoyed every topic of the training sessions. He learned about violence and corporal punishment, and how they negatively affected children.
The major principle of positive discipline is that teachers guide students, using fair and non-violent responses, instead of corporal punishment. It encourages teachers to become more confident in their interactions with students and to act as role models. Positive discipline is also important in creating a conducive teacher-student relationships built on respect and trust, not fear and punishment.
The training helped Yai improve his relationships with his students. After learning positive techniques to manage the classroom, Yai stopped using sticks as a form of punishment during class. He tries to smile more and manage his anger. Now, his students feel more comfortable approaching him. Students have started to come to school more regularly, and many have begun sharing their personal issues with him.
Training on positive discipline encourages teachers to pay attention to children’s emotional and psychological needs, as well as their developmental stages. By understanding the needs of individual students, teachers can support students to learn self-discipline through positively reinforcing good choices and rewarding good behaviour.
During the training, Yai learnt how to deal with students that are in conflict with each other, how to encourage students to achieve better learning outcomes, how to promote participation, and how to develop a learning plan.
Yai and his students got together to draw up a list of classroom rules and acceptable behaviour. When students are very noisy, Yai asks them to read the classroom rules. The technique is effective in calming them down.
Using positive discipline methods at school has also helped improve the students’ academic performance. “Students feel more comfortable asking questions now,” Yai said. “They often approach teachers and enjoy studying. I encourage all students to do homework and study after school. Many of them do homework, and I give them a good score as a reward. As a result, not only their level of knowledge, but also their performance has increased.”
Teachers in Por Preuk Primary School support each other closely,sharing their experiences in promoting positive discipline. When Yai heard a teacher speaking harshly to students, he approached her, advised her, and encouraged her to use positive discipline.
“I am very happy to see these positive changes at Por Preuk Primary School,” Yai said. “I will continue to use positive discipline and share the concept with other teachers, as well as people in the community.