Classroom indiscipline: the family factor

The topic of disruptive classroom behaviour by pupils raised its head again this year at the annual Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conference.

According to TUI general secretary Peter McMenamin, the recession and educational cutbacks have made the problem worse.

“Most social problems manifest themselves initially in the classroom. Teachers have said that the predicament the country finds itself in is impacting on student behaviour.”

But their own poll conducted last week found that 81 per cent of teachers said dealing with discipline had increased their workload over the last five years, long before the recession had kicked in.

And the problem has been cited at a range of different teachers’ conferences for many years.

In 2007, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland heard from one teacher who complained that she had suffered repeated threats of violence to her and her property.

“It’s a constant threat to me and my colleagues, and I won’t disgust you with the name-calling that goes on. The motto of so many students appears to be ‘shut up and put up’.”

That year, the TUI expressed similar concerns about discipline. They reported that 70 per cent of their members said taught in classes where students engaged in continuous disruptive behaviour.

One of the main reasons for this, although it seems to be the reason that dare not speak its name as far as the unions are concerned, is almost certainly family breakdown.

International research shows that children whose biological parents are married tend to fare better and behave better in school.

But increasing numbers of children are being brought up in broken families, and this is surely having an effect on school discipline.

Individual teachers, when you speak to them, recognise that there is a link between family breakdown and classroom discipline. But teaching unions seem utterly incapable of accepting this.