“[…]si la disciplina exigida es saludable, lo es también la comprensión de esa disciplina, si es democrática la forma de crearla y de vivirla, si son saludables los sujetos forjadores de la disciplina indispensable, ella siempre implica la experiencia de los límites, el juego contradictorio entre la libertad y la autoridad, y jamás puede prescindir de una sólida base ética.”
I wanted to begin this reflection with the lines written above because it reflects the heart of Freire’s tenth letter: the discipline, how it must be taken and handled into the classroom. At the same time, these words reminded me of my first days as a ‘teacher’.
When I got into this reading, I thought about the connection between ‘discipline’ and my ‘classrooms’. Some words, or images, came to my mind: students sat on their chairs paying attention, students talking while I’m explaining the lesson, students respecting their classmates, students making fun of other classmates, etc. Experience talks! And this is the contrast between disciplined and misbehaving students. Then I wondered “What do I mean by discipline?” In general terms, discipline is acting, taking steps or following rules to achieve a purpose, or simply, because there are reasons to act or behave like that. In the educational context, I think, discipline is not just a matter of keeping the order or having students under control, but it is making students aware of the importance of following rules and how it benefit themselves and others.
How is Freire’s perception about ‘discipline’ connected to my experience in the classroom? To explain this, I will go back to my first days of teaching. There were times my lessons turned into a mess because of ‘lack of discipline’ from some students. After I reflected on this, I became aware of how ‘misbehaviour’ affects the learning process of students and, consequently, I understood the importance of setting rules for the classroom and make them be respected.
“Rules are important because they regulate behavior, set the limits, and help to create a sense of fairness among individuals.” This is what I read once and I think it relates enough to the topic in matter. On the other hand, Freire talks, somehow, about proposing but not imposing. Then, what do we have? Rules introduced to students as a proposal, in which they have the freedom to express their agreement or disagreement about it, or even better, in which they can add rules they think they are going to benefit from. Once students know the rules, they know there are limits, too.
To sum up, I take some words from Freire’s perspective about ‘discipline’: firm but not authoritarian, and students’ freedom to participate (democracy) in the framework for the sense of ‘discipline’ in their classrooms. This is the connection I find between Freire’s perspective about discipline and mine’s viewed from my short experience as a teacher.