Aaggh! Discipline – the dreaded “D” word. We all know it’s important; we do it everyday; we all probably struggle with being consistent in it; and we all know that it can disrupt our day in a big way!
You are charging through your day with your class when a student decides to directly disobey you. Perhaps it is what we would consider “minor” infractions (i.e. talking in class). Perhaps it is a “big” issue like lying or disrespect. Whatever it is, the disobedience needs to be dealt with. It needs discipline.
To be honest, I don’t really enjoy discipline. I would prefer us all to just float through our day with happiness and sunshine, everyone getting along with each other and following the rules so we can have a wonderful and nurturing learning environment. Um, so yeah…that’s not a regular day in my class. See, my class is full of little sinners led by one big sinner…there are going to be ugly moments and moments that require discipline.
And sometimes I am a little resentful that I have to deal with these issues at all.
I am irritated because I have already dealt with this situation before.
I am frustrated because my plans have just been derailed by a nine year old.
But I need to step back and examine my own heart…am I upset because their disobedience is causing problems for me…or because it is displeasing to God?
So often I look at discipline as a disruption to my instruction.But discipline is probably the most important instruction I will do all day!
That moment of discipline is a divine appointment, not a disruption – sure, it wasn’t on my schedule for the day, but it was on God’s agenda for the day. He wants to use that discipline to reveal Himself to my student and to me as well!
I think it is really helpful to study how God disciplines us as His children as we form our views of discipline . Hebrews 12 is a great chapter to go to! As I studied the passage, my Ryrie study Bible noted four purposes of God’s discipline of us.
- It is part of the educational process by which a believer is fitted to share God’s holiness (v. 10).
- It is proof of a genuine love relationship between the heavenly Father and His children (vv. 6,8).
- It helps train them to be obedient (v.9)
- It produces the fruit of righteousness in their lives (v. 11)
Of course, being a teacher, I had to take these and apply them to my classroom!
- Does my discipline encourage my students towards holiness?
Or am I emphasizing a mere outer goodness like the Pharisees had? Holiness is about my students’ hearts first and foremost – what are they worshiping? What do they love so much that they are willing to disobey God to get it? Am I focused on their heart in discipline or just getting quick outer results? (There will be many times that you can’t stop to deal with the heart right then and there – we can’t make a regular habit of bringing Math class to a halt so we can take a student out into the hallway and start digging to find out what is at the bottom of his heart! Follow your classroom management plan, give a consequence, and try to find a few minutes later on that day to discuss what was really going on. This can also be helpful because your emotions won’t be as high and the student won’t be quite as defensive as he would be in the heat of the moment.)
…but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness (v. 10)
- Does my discipline stem out of genuine love for my students?
Or, once again, am I merely irritated at my plans being disrupted or that they are making me look bad? Do I react differently to their misbehavior when there are other teachers around?
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives (v. 6)
- Does my discipline encourage my students to be obedient?
This may sound strange at first – how can discipline not encourage obedience? Well, I need to ask myself if I am being consistent in my expectations? Do I expect their obedience the first time, sweetly and completely? Or am I satisfied with something less? Am I disciplining them with an attitude that is like our Heavenly Father who is slow to anger, gracious, and merciful?
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? (v. 9)
- Does my discipline encourage long-term righteousness?
Does it show my students that righteousness is found in Christ and not in their own strength? They can’t fight sin on their own – they need Christ! Does my discipline illustrate to students that obedience should stem from a love & appreciation of what God has given to them? Or does my discipline merely encourage them to be compliant because “life’s just easier that way” ?
For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (v. 11)
When discipline issues arise, instead of getting irritated, angry, or overwhelmed, I need to turn my gaze to God’s purposes for discipline. We as teachers need to remember that we can’t “fix” our students’ hearts -we can only point them to the One who can.