The classroom can be a volatile space. It brings together diverse individuals at various stages of emotional and intellectual development, a variety of attitudes and backgrounds, and different needs and expectations. Overlay this with the strictures of syllabus and timetable, evaluation and examination, and you have a space rampant with frustrations and fears, not to mention anger and anxiety. It can be a lot for a teacher to deal with, particularly at certain times of the year when the expectations from the school administration and the parent community heighten and one is racing against time to complete the task-list. Of course, there are periods of calm as well, ranging from mild boredom to complete harmony in the class, and these are opportunities to shore away and draw strength from on a stormy day. But, until we reach that position of reflection that allows us to create some distance between what we do and how it is received, we need to find ways to handle the dynamics of the classroom in a way that will lead to a positive outcome for both teacher and students.
The cover story in this issue of Teacher Plus deals with one of the disturbing outcomes of poor classroom management – corporal punishment. Coping with classroom tensions, individual differences, unmet expectations and just plain bad behaviour can get taxing for teachers. The author suggests ways in which teachers can deal with classroom tensions without the breakdown that leads to such punishment. We welcome your own stories too, of such coping – perhaps together we can arrive at alternative ways of creating a classroom climate that helps deal with tensions before they become unmanageable. Often it is an anger management issue, which requires that the individual teacher recognize it as such and seek ways to handle it – with support from the school collective if necessary. Schools therefore need to become supportive structures, emphasizing cooperation and dialogue rather than surveillance and punishment.