Discipline and Why Our Teachers In Australia Are Struggling

Latest News Thursday, 26 May 2022

The College has worked consistently over the past two years on our 4 pillars of professional learning:

  1. The School Improvement Plan – which has entered its 3rd year (including interruptions owing to the pandemic) and which is focussed on English.
  2. Teaching Hebrew – where our Hebrew teachers have been actively engaged in professional learning from the US each fortnight for close to two years.
  3. Wellbeing – where our focus has been on building initiatives across the school for students who require emotional and social support.
  4. IT – where, as an Apple Distinguished School, our focus has been on using technology (and specifically the iPad) in ways that promotes interdisciplinarity and creativity.

More recently, we have felt the need to also focus on managing behaviours. There seems to be an abundance of evidence nationally and internationally (and in talking to my principal colleagues at our IPSHA meeting last week), that there has been an obvious deterioration in the ways students are managing and regulating their own behaviour. For a small number of children, arguing with staff and being rude seems to be acceptable to them. These behaviours are invariably ones allowed at home – they don’t get nurtured in the values of the school.

In response, one of the many ways we will manage this is to place students on detention.  We have developed guidelines around this which will be used in conjunction with the Mount Sinai College Student Well-being & Behaviour Policies and Guidelines.

Guideline Rationale:

To ensure the safety and well-being of all students and staff, as well as provide an educational environment where all students can achieve and succeed, it is essential that behaviour is monitored.

Both staff and parents, therefore, have a responsibility to promote positive behaviour, to encourage mutual respect and to instil self-discipline in students. Where students do not respond positively to the standards and expectations of the College, it may, on occasions, be necessary to impose a fair, reasonable and proportionate consequence. This guideline details the procedures relating specifically to the issuing of detention by a member of staff.

Aims of detention:

  • As a deterrent to repeating behaviours deemed unacceptable
  • To reflect on behaviours exhibited


  • Teachers refer a student to detention with an explanation of why detention is required.
  • Class teachers can issue detention at Level 1 (in accordance with the Mount Sinai College Behavioural Policy) 
  • Parents will, where possible, be informed within 24 hours that detention has occurred.
  • The detention shall be for a duration no longer than 35 minutes and will take place in the designated Hebrew room.
  • It is expected that the student will attend the detention on the date set by the member of staff. If detention is issued after lunch, the student will attend detention the following day.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to report to detention punctually. Failure to do will result in the issue of a further or additional detentions or sanction.
  • Students will be supervised by a member of staff.

We would appreciate your support of these guidelines in order to maintain a respectful environment for staff and students alike. As such, should your child receive a detention, we request that you support the College’s process when discussing the matter with your child.

Support means you acknowledge that the child’s story of events and of why s/he is placed on detention is not the story, rather, it is their story – and this is mostly fabricated or at least totally lopsided.

A Related Article to the Above

I spent considerable time last week talking to young adults (all of my son’s age) as we hosted a party. Four of the people present were teachers so I was grilling them about their profession. What are the best parts of the job? What are they finding hard? Do they think they’ll last in the profession? Etc.

There was a consensus (confirmed somewhat more widely and anecdotally) that pay is not always the issue. Many teachers understand this when they enter the profession. However, there are a few points that are often overlooked and / or not mentioned in the media or particularly by the Union. Many teachers in the Department schools are totally disillusioned by not being offered permanency. Stories abound of hundreds of teachers on leave for 5 years or more, rolling over all kinds of leave which means that young people cannot get security of employment. One of the teachers I spoke to mentioned that when one job became available at her school there were 500 applicants such is the desire for permanency. Keeping teachers on temporary contracts for years without hope of permanency is unfair and it means for many, they can’t secure financial loans or find the peace of mind that comes with permanency.

Overwhelmingly, it was student bad behaviours and the lack of support they received from the school (or more accurately the Department) which was making them see red and making them contemplate leaving.  

According to one media article recently “Thousands of teachers are preparing to walk away from the job because of the crazy workload and poor pay — and that was even before the challenges of COVID”. The article estimates that one third of NSW teachers are planning to quit pre-retirement, while another third is simply unsure if they want to stay in the profession.

In addition, the article indicated that many of our teachers, especially those in NSW, where they have had extensive periods of lockdown, are reporting serious behaviour issues from students who are returning to the mainstream classroom environment. The teachers are struggling, with many advising that it may be time to leave the profession.

According to the article, Ruby Blake began full-time teaching in 2022, but said the pressure was already taking a toll. She was quoted as saying “There are discussions about burnout, and I’ve had conversations with other teachers about emotional breakdowns, where the stress is affecting the rest of their lives”.

In 2018, long before the COVID pandemic, and students returning to mainstream classrooms after long periods at home, this matter of very poor student behaviour and a lack of teacher support was raised in TeachWire:

“72% of the teachers we polled claimed to know of former colleagues who had abandoned the classroom because of poor pupil behaviour. Worryingly, the perception of unruliness and indiscipline may be preventing people who might otherwise be good teachers from applying in the first place. 71% of teachers agreed that people are put off from becoming teachers because of poor pupil behaviour. Our research shows that implementing behaviour policies effectively and consistently is the best way to tackle persistent disruptive behaviour. Unfortunately, not all teachers are confident that they will have support from either parents or senior managers within their own schools when it comes to tackling disruptive behaviour.”

  • 84% of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months
  • 70% are spending more time providing emotional support to students since the pandemic
  • In 2021, 37% reported little or no satisfaction from their job.

Many bad behaviours can be dealt with when the parents are supportive of the schools’ endeavours and when they work closely together. However, most teachers want to teach. That’s what they are trained to do. Too many are finding they have to spend copious number of hours on managing bad behaviour. It is demoralising and is often the catalyst for leaving the profession. 

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