Punitive Classroom Management

Positive, Not Punitive, Classroom Management Tips

Let me begin with a question that has been posed to me on more than one occasion.

“I am familiar with my topic and enjoy my pupils, but it can be difficult to keep them under control so that I can present my lesson. What advice do you have for me in terms of classroom management?”

My typical response is that you can never have too many good classroom management tools in your repertoire, rather than too many punitive ones.

It goes without saying that there are major student infractions, such as violence, for which a kind of punishment is a suitable response to the situation. However, in many other circumstances, punishment may only be effective for a short period of time, may not be effective at all, or may even make the problem worse. According to research, punishment is frequently used to teach students that they simply need to be more cautious in the future in order to avoid being detected.

Public Versus Private Relationship

Individuals seeking to grasp the distinction between public and private interactions seek the assistance of community organisers (I was an organiser for 19 years prior to becoming a teacher). When it serves their goals, those in positions of authority will frequently attempt to muddy the lines between the two (for example, politicians kissing babies).

Here’s another illustration: Over the years, I have volunteered my time with a variety of organisations, including religious congregations, to help them organise for community changes. When it came to neighbourhood changes, the political decision makers with whom we would have to negotiate were sometimes members of those congregations, and they would frequently attempt to discreetly encourage pastors or congregation leaders to take a different public stance. As a response, religious leaders pointed out that when it came to engaging in public life, it was a public relationship and a public discourse — and when it came to dealing with personal issues, it was a private connection and a private dialogue. It was a conditional connection in public life, depending on negotiation and reciprocity, and it was difficult to maintain. In private life, the relationship was frequently founded on feelings of love and friendship between the parties. Making this distinction in public was particularly crucial because it would be demonstrated in a public forum.

And we extended this distinction to how members were expected to behave in the context of the organisation — at our meetings, in interviews with the media, and in any other situation in which they were in the public eye.

In the classroom, I use this concept to assist students comprehend the distinction between public and private behaviour by demonstrating it to them. When kids are in the classroom, they are entering a public area where there are certain expectations to be met. One minor example would be a student yelling out “I’m bored” or making some other unacceptable remark in class.

One possible response to this type of remark is a stern reprimand from the teacher, which is not uncommon. I prefer to go over the student’s shoulders, put my arm around his or her shoulders, and engage in this type of brief chat with a grin, either right then or at the next available moment.

“Johnny, do you think it’s okay that I’m thinking about what you said?”
“Yes,” Johnny confirms.
My question to Johnny was, “Do you think it’s okay for you to tell your friends about what you just said after class?”
“Yes,” Johnny confirms.
“Johnny, do you think it’s okay if I mention what you just said out loud in the classroom?” I inquire.
“No,” Johnny responds.
And with a smile on each of our faces, it’s over.

“What Would Be the Long-Term Effect of Doing That?”

I’ve found that if I’ve done it enough times with a pupil, he or she will be able to recite the entire thing when I go over it with them. It is important to note that the discourse begins with what pupils can do rather than what they cannot.

Fortunately, as the school year progresses, it appears that at least some kids gain a better knowledge of the contrasts between public and private education, an awareness that should serve them well in the years to come, as well as in the classroom.

“Can you tell me what the long-term ramifications of doing that would be?”
Professor Marvin Marshall advocates a simple method of asking a disruptive student a basic question, either in the present or later on: “What would be the long-term effect of doing that?” Marshall is a positive classroom management consultant and educator. As he points out, asking questions can be significantly more helpful than telling them what to do.

Alternatives to Collective Punishment are being explored.
There are probably a lot of teachers who have had an experience like this:

Alternatively, someone produces an irritating noise, such as a paper aeroplane, paper ball, or pencil flying through the air. Aiming the object at another student is most likely the intention, and it may or may not hit the intended target. The noise is purely for amusement purposes.

You have a basic idea of where it originated from, but you have no idea who is responsible for it in detail. The fact is that this kind of behaviour does not contribute to a learning community, which is discouraging.

What are you going to do?

It’s not uncommon for teachers to exclaim something along the lines of “Who threw it?” first. If no one admits to it, then the teacher will reprimand the entire class for their actions.

The following is an example of collective punishment:

Generally speaking, collective punishment is the punishment meted out to a group of people as a result of the actions of another individual or group of people. It is common for the punished group to have no direct association with the other individuals or organisations, and to have no direct control over the behaviour of those persons or groups.
I’m not persuaded that this is the type of behaviour we should be modelling for our pupils.

What are the options if collective punishment is out of the question?

It is true that this type of misconduct does not occur very frequently in my classrooms, which is a blessing, but it does occur. The first thing I do when something like this happens is walk over to the location where I believe the noise or projectile came from and discreetly express that I don’t feel respected in such situations. In addition, because I believe I consistently demonstrate that I value students’ opinions, I would anticipate that they would want me to be valued as well. I then explain that I don’t know who did it, but that I would like each of them to make a commitment that they will not throw anything (or make a noise, or do anything else) in the future, and we all shake our heads. I inform them that I am confident in their ability to keep their promise, and the situation is resolved.

That is the end of the storey nine times out of ten, with no possibility of a second chance.

If it happens again, though, I will proceed to the following step. Somebody in my class, for example, was occasionally making a loud, irritating noise. I knew it was one of the two students who had done it. I worked with them on the initial step, and everything went smoothly. Then, two days later, one of them made the same commotion once more.

I invited them both to accompany me outside and stated that I was dissatisfied with one of them for failing to follow through on their commitment. I knew there was one who could be trusted, but I couldn’t tell you who it was. As a result, I stated that I couldn’t put my faith in either of them and that I didn’t like feeling that way. In my opinion, the person who was generating the noise should pause and consider how his or her actions were now hurting the other student. I was right. Then I allowed them a few minutes to chat about it in private with no one else there (I left the door open and asked them to stay in front of it so I could observe their actions, but not overhear what they said).

We didn’t hear any more of that irritating noise after that.

As a result, the second step is to ask students to evaluate the influence their actions have on others and to attempt to resolve conflicts among themselves when this is deemed essential. Throughout my teaching career, this has nearly always resulted in the inappropriate behaviour being stopped and, hopefully, the kids gaining some more maturity.

Without a doubt, one of the most typical scenarios in which the spectre of collective punishment is discussed is after a student has had a bad experience with a substitute teacher. One preventative technique is the use of a grading rubric, such as the Attitude and Behavior With a Substitute Teacher grading rubric, to track student behaviour. Early in the school year, the instructor introduces the pupils to the simple rubric and indicates that a substitute will use it with them throughout the year. Five minutes before the end of class with the sub, he or she will distribute the rubrics, and students will use them to jot down their names and assign grades to their own work. The substitute will then go around and give each kid the grade he or she believes they deserve before collecting the sheets (this process means the sub does not have to worry about remembering individual names and can base the evaluation on student faces).

If you want to lessen the temptation of your teacher inflicting collective punishment on your students, increase the possibility that your class with a sub will be reasonably productive, and reduce the stress of your substitute teacher, this is an excellent technique.

The use of a grading rubric can be replaced with an explanation to students that the teacher has faith in their ability to behave responsibly when a class has demonstrated understanding and respect for the anticipated behaviour.

Throughout the second section of this sample, I’ll provide you with other constructive classroom management ideas. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on the subject in the comments area.