Cross-posted at our New Teacher Learning Team blog.
Let’s face it. We’ve all done it. We know it’s wrong and useless, but we do it anyway.
Collective punishment – punishing a group for the actions of on individual – is a topic with which we all struggle occasionally. It rarely produces the effect we want – ceasing of the behavior in question or the “confession of the culprit,” etc.
What collective punishment often does is reduce the mutual respect we have developed with those students who are innocent (or at least not guilty in that particular instance) of the behavior. Sure it’s helpful in the short-term to blow off some steam, but does it really help?
No, not according to this post by Larry Ferlazzo. However, there are different ways to handle the situation, which are also detailed in Larry’s article.
I must say that I’ve had similar results with similar methods. As a 12-year middle school veteran, the tried and true ignore-the-negative-behavior-while-reinforcing-the-positive-behavior often worked wonders. I’ve also used Larry’s approach of quietly discussing or privately conferencing with students – with good results. And, there have been times when I’ve made a blanket announcement about respecting one’s self and one’s classmates to help stave off future occurrences, which has also worked well.
Here’s a situational tactic I’ve used in the past after a substitute or guest teacher has been covering my class. When beginning the class, I would ask the group, “Here is the note that the substitute teacher left for me. I haven’t read it yet because I want to hear your side of the story first. For today’s bell-ringer activity, please write down what YOU think the substitute’s note says, and what you plan to do next time to help the sub next time.”
First of all, these things are all lies, of course. I have indeed read the sub’s notes and I know exactly which kids the sub has fingered as the trouble-makers, but the kids don’t need to know that. Subs work hard, but often they don’t know the kids like I do, and sometimes they don’t know what I do or do not allow in my classroom. That’s not the sub’s fault, and it’s often hard for the kids to understand & adapt to the sub’s expectations. Writing about how kids perceived the classroom activities will either confirm the sub’s notes or, more often than not, shed more light on what was occurring in the classroom environment when the behavior-in-question occurred. Then I can conference with the “perpetrators” about their behavior and dole out consequences or praises as needed. And, since they’ve already written about how they might behave differently next time, when I conference with kids they have either already thought things through or they’ve sealed their fate by trying to hide things even further, and we now have deeper, more important issues to deal with than who farted or who threw the paperwad.
Would Larry’s method work in your classroom? Maybe. Maybe not. Would my method work every time? Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe teachers will read about these ideas and add whatever is relevant to their individual classroom toolkits and avoid needless group punishments in the future.