St. John Bosco and Classroom Discipline

Don Bosco inTorino, 1887. By Carlo Felice Deasti –, Public Domain, Link

Simple ways to build trust

By Sr. Brittany Harrison, FMA

“Reason, religion, and loving-kindness” is how St. John Bosco, often called “Don Bosco,” summarized his educational system. In aiming to prevent poor behavior by making goodness and virtue more attractive than the opposite, Don Bosco revolutionized the education landscape of his time. French author and intellectual Victor Hugo opined, “Don Bosco is a man of legend.” Few of his day were able to rally the energies and enthusiasm of street children and orphans the way Don Bosco could, turning out not only good citizens and saints such as St. Dominic Savio, but also holy vocations to the priesthood, the married life, and lay missionary life.

Always be the first to enter your classroom and the last to leave it.

One of the key features of Don Bosco’s style of education is presence. Rather than taking on the presence of a police officer waiting to catch students in the act of rule-breaking, the educator should be present like a guardian angel or caring friend, striving to foresee issues and prevent them. Students should never be left unsupervised, and each one should be personally greeted upon arrival and departure. This allows teachers to check for changes in health, safety, and emotions among the students and intervene if necessary.

Without confidence and love, there can be no true education.

If teachers do not treat their students with respect and love, the students will not reciprocate. Corrections should never belittle, embarrass, or humiliate students. Consequences should be reasonable and proportional, never given out of anger or revenge. Students should feel that their teacher is trustworthy and fair.

It is also important for teachers to make their classrooms feel welcoming so that students feel happy to be there. Whether it’s through decorating or allowing your personality to shine through, personal touches put students at ease. In my classroom, I share my love of tea with students by setting up a tea station. Students can use it when they have quiet, independent work to do, or as a reward. The cost of the tea is minimal, but it goes far to make students feel comfortable and at home. Often they will agree to do assignments they loathe in exchange for a steaming cup of Earl Gray.

The teacher who is seen only in the classroom and nowhere else is a teacher and nothing more; but let him go with his boys to recreation and he becomes a brother.

Informal interactions with students build trust. When teachers get to know students on a personal level by sharing time with them at recess and lunch or attending special events, students start to see that teacher as someone who really knows them and cares. They are more likely to open up about their personal struggles, allowing the educator insight into their personality and needs.

Of course, all of these recommendations of St. John Bosco must be applied with proper and professional boundaries. Students who feel known, loved, safe, and wanted tend to blossom in the classroom despite personal difficulties and limitations.

Sr. Brittany Harrison, FMA, is a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco with more than 10 years’ experience in Catholic education. She is a frequent guest on Relevant Radio, and aims to help everyone to connect faith and daily life. You can follow her online on Twitter and Instagram: @SisterB24.

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