punishing whole class for behavior of individuals - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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My son is in 3rd grade and lately he has been coming home with some stories that are causing me to be concerned about his teacher's disciplinary style. There seem to be a handful of kids in his class that are getting in trouble/being sent to the office in a daily basis. Lately, however, it seems that the teacher is trying to address this by punishing the whole class for the behavior of these kids, possibly to try to get the misbehaving kids to feel pressure to behave from the other kids?

At some point recently, the teacher took away "choice time" for all the kids, which is their free time at the end of the day to read, do art, build legos or whatever. Now she has a policy of putting a marble in a jar on the days that the whole class behaves. When the jar has 10 marbles, they can have choice time. My son tells me that they haven't had choice time in weeks because of this, as if any person misbehaves during the day, they get no marble.

Next is the issue of the lunch line. The class walks from the cafeteria up two stories to get to the class room. If, at any point during that walk, any of the kids talk, the whole class walks all the way back to the cafeteria to start over--even if they were right outside the classroom when somebody talked! Not only does this seem like an incredible waste of time, but I am not clear as to why the kids need to be silent in the first place. Or why can't the kid who talked be sent back down.

What pushed me over the edge was a note that was sent home the other day. Apparently the class was trying to watch a movie and a lot of kids were acting out. I know a couple were sent to the office but my son made it sound like up to half the class was involved (but not him, he says, and I do believe him). So the teacher decided to make the whole class write a note home to their parents. The note said "dear mom, today my class was not able to watch a movie because we were being very disrespectful. I promise to behave in the future" . I just think it is so unfair that the kids who do behave are being punished for the behavior of those who don't! I encourage honesty at all times with my son, and this note essentially asked him to lie by taking responsibility for something that he did not do. Not to mention that some kids bringing that note home could face harsh discipline from their parents. It just does not sit well with me for a number of reasons. I have issues with the whole punish/reward style to begin with and this could easily backfire on the teacher because if the kids who do behave are punished, then what incentive do they have to continue? The note had to be signed and returned so on it I wrote a note requesting a meeting to discuss my concerns. I like his teacher, and at the last conference she said that their were some kids with behavioral issues in the class and that my son was not one of them. So I really do believe him when he says that he is not involved.

So I guess what I am looking for is assurance that this type of discipline is problematic, and possibly some resources that I can print out to bring to our meeting. Thanks!
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#2 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 01:08 PM
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Talk to the teacher.

I've found from past issues with a teacher's reward/punishment systems that it's always a good idea to go directly to the teacher in a non confrontational way to find out what her reward/punishment system is. Children's perceptions are not always reality.

Once you know how her system works, then you can address any concerns you have.

Personally, I'm not ok with the entire class being punished for the actions of a few - or even the actions of the majority.

That happened to my DD one time. She got in the car sobbing because she lost recess because of the actions of the majority of the class. My DD claimed she did nothing (and I too believed her) so she was devestated by the punishment.

I talked to the teacher and the teacher was great. She said that in all her years of teacher, she had never had a worse week with her class. The behavior was over the top rude and disrespectful and she was at her wits end.

Being a teacher is a tough job. I get that. But, when I explained to her how her mass punishement affected my child, she nearly cried. She felt terrible. She agreed that my DD along with a handful of other children were not involved in the rude behavior but, because the overwhelming majority of the class was involved and she couldn't see everyone, all the time, she did a mass punishment. She ended up recinding the punishment for a few of the children.

Anyway, my point is to talk to the teacher. Get her perspecitve. Share your perspective on how this type of punishment is affecting your child and then see what her response is.
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#3 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 01:18 PM
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--- ditto everything amcal said ----

first talk to the teacher in a non confrontational way.

dont go in thinking the teacher is doing everything wrong. go in with the attitude that you need more info (helps to not come out nonconfrontational). AND then take it from there.

dd's class has done both marbles and take away either choice time or fun friday time. never on a regular basis and only because most of the class was behaving that way. so it was used in a 'correct way' i feel.

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#4 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 06:30 PM
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A former boss once told me that perception is reality. There's truth to that, which means that what a persons sees as happening may not be entirely accurate. I'm not saying your child is misstating what's happening, and I'm inclined to believe his account, but I know my DD might be one to say she hadn't had choice time for "weeks" when it was 3 days in only one week, kwim? Simply because of this, I agree to talk to the teacher in a non-confrontational way and see what her take is on it. I suspect your son's account will be confirmed. In that case I would be very unhappy with this method of punishment for the class. The big thing that jumps out at me is that through the entire jr high level and up everyone pushes on kids about withstanding peer pressure, whether it be sex, drugs, partying, etc. So at 3rd grade they're trying to teach kids to succumb to peer pressure as an acceptable way to discipline? That just sits so wrong with me. Not to mention that it's horribly unfair. My kids would be totally bat crap crazy over something like that - and my mild mannered kids probably wouldn't hesitate to let the teacher know in no uncertain terms it was "wrong". Talk to the teacher first, and if she is doing this and refuses to change, I think it'd be worth escalating to the principal.
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#5 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 07:01 PM
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My daughter is in 2nd grade and unfortunately has a very unbalanced class- there are more disruptive/ADHD/behavioral problem kids than 1 teacher can handle and it's sad because the entire class gets punished because sometimes 3/4 of the class is acting out.

My child has come home with pages and pages of things like this that ALL of the kids are forced to write again and again a certain # of times:

Always keep your hands to yourself

Never push or shove

And on and on, some of them I can't recall off the top of my head but they are just mind blowing- having my child promise not to talk out of turn, and not to do this and that when she hasn't done any of them makes me really angry.

I think they need to keep the consequences pointed at the ones who aren't following the rules- or lighten up.

The learning environment at this school in the lower grades is seriously suffering because there are so many kids with special needs and truly none of the kids are getting served properly- typical and special needs alike.

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#6 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I was definitely planning on letting the teacher explain the situation before I expressed my concerns. It is possible that my son has got some of the details wrong, though I doubt it. Today when he got home from school he had half his lunch left and he said it was because they had less time to eat because kids were talking on the way to the cafeteria and they had to keep going to the classroom to start over. Also, they lost 7 minutes of recess tomorrow (today's was inside because of the rain) because some kids were acting out. Beside the fact that taking recess away is a bad idea in general, I really think it's also bad idea to carry the punishment over into the next day.

I realize that the teacher must be really stressed out to resort to this but not only is it unfair, it doesn't seem like it's even working! That's an interesting point about peer pressure too, I hadn't thought of that. I also think that there is a lack of support for special needs kids in the school. One of the kids who is the among the troublemakers in the class was expelled from the other school in town and does not seem to be doing well here. My son says he is sent to the office every single day.
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#7 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 08:27 PM
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Yep sounds pretty typical to me. I once watched a principal waste 20 minutes getting a cafeteria full of kids quiet with threat after threat and revoked privileges left and right, when the whole freaking time it was quiet enough for me, at the far back of the cafeteria and around a corner, to hear every word. Of the kids I could see, at the start one was whispering to a neighbor, by the time the principal got around to actually saying the announcement there were 5 kids distracted and ignoring him. End result was the kids all lost a portion of the afterschool snack for two weeks because the principal couldn't just tell the kids that what they were doing that day was the same as every other day except a guest would be doing a little presentation to each group.

Any way, I hope things are better than represented by your ds, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's almost as bad as he says.
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#8 of 11 Old 01-26-2010, 04:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Erin22 View Post
Also, they lost 7 minutes of recess tomorrow (today's was inside because of the rain) because some kids were acting out. Beside the fact that taking recess away is a bad idea in general, I really think it's also bad idea to carry the punishment over into the next day.
I don't agree with taking away recess either, but why wouldn't you carry it over to the next day? Disciplinary action shouldn't be forgotten because kids sleep during the time.

As a teacher, I am somewhat split on this. I have made my students do the "start the walk over again" thing because of talking sooo many times. I hate it, the kids hate it, but they would get so talkative that classes were being disturbed as we walked by. They were a GREAT class, but a very chatty bunch, which I didn't really mind (I talk a lot too lol!), but they needed to realize that there were times where talking was appropriate, and there were times where they had to be quiet.

However, I don't agree with the extreme this teacher uses the whole peer pressure discipline. So I agree, just approach it in a very non-confrontational manner. There is no guarantee it will change, but at least she will know you are concerned, and maybe she can explain exactly what is going on, and her next steps for dealing with it.
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#9 of 11 Old 01-26-2010, 07:58 AM
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My kids are in upper and lower el in a private Montessori.My dd in upper lost recess time often, because some kids will not quiet down fast enough for the teachers.My dd wonders what is the point of being good if she will get punished for the actions of others?

My ds is in lower el. and there have been behavior issues with the younger kids(age 6 in a 6-9 class) that have been going on all year.I have always encouraged my ds to let the teachers know if someone is hurting/bothering them after being asked not too.It is the steps to be taken according to the student/parent handbook!!!Well to many kids must be complaining because the teacher told the kids if anyone *tattles* on another kid THEY will lose recess time.My ds is shutting down and hating school.

It is unfortunate the way some teachers decide to deal with negative classroom behavior.Be careful talking to the teachers as it sometimes results in a worsening of the situation!
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#10 of 11 Old 01-26-2010, 10:35 AM
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It's the same in my DD's 4th grade class. They get recess taken away... RECESS!!!.... because some kids talk, so she makes the entire class suffer. I hate it, I've brought it up how unfair it is, and nothing changes. Her teacher is old and I don't think she cares anymore anyway.
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#11 of 11 Old 01-26-2010, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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I guess I don't like the idea of carrying a punishment over into the next day because I think the kids need a fresh start. If there was a serious problem, I can see that it might need to be dealt with over several days but again, with the individuals involved and not the whole class. Now, I am not a teacher so I have no experience with any of this. Maybe I would feel differently if this was a rare occurrence, but this is a chronic problem in this class and once punishments start spilling over into the next day, I feel like the morale of the class and their incentive to behave will be pretty low. The kids --many of whom did nothing wrong--are sitting through school today knowing that a punishment is looming.

As for the walking back and forth, I wish there was some way that only the kids who talked had to start over, and the quiet kids could sit in the classroom and wait but that might not be realistic.

Hopefully my son remembers to give his teacher my note today so we can schedule a meeting!
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