I have to admit. I am writing this post today out of complete and utter frustration. I am at my wits end with my kids school and I am not sure what to do next. My older 3 go to a wonderful elementary school. It is rated Excellent with Distinction by the state of Ohio. I love how they have implemented so many great programs to help kids who need extra help and enrich the studies of students who are ahead. My kids are in kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade. All 3 of them work well above their grade levels. Andrew is my oldest. He is in 3rd grade. He is in the schools gifted math program and is a straight "A" student. Grade cards came home yesterday and not only did he have all "A's" but they were all high "A's" and he received the highest marks for his excellent behavior. He is every teachers dream for a child. I'm not just saying that either. He is a people pleaser and does everything he can to do what he is supposed to do. He is by far the most responsible 9 year old I have ever seen and we constantly reward him for his excellent behavior at school. He is very quiet and shy so he doesn't talk much and he ALWAYS does what is expected of him. So if he is so wonderful, why has he missed over a dozen recesses this school year?! 2 words. Group Punishment.
This is new to me. Since he has been in kindergarten, I have had minimal problems with things at school concerning Drew. But this year for some reason, it is a complete different story. The playground and cafeteria aides at the school are extremely hateful and mean and they all have this idea in their heads that if one student is misbehaving, they should all be punished. I can't tell you how bad this burns me up. I have kept quiet all year long with my hubby reminding me to "pick my battles" and just let things go but yesterday was the final straw. My son missed most of his lunch recess because a group of boys at the opposite end of the table were horsing around. Andrew and his friend were at the other end of the table, yet the entire table was punished and had to stay in the cafeteria until all of the other tables had been dismissed. First of all, let me tell you why this bothers me so bad.
My kids only get 2 recesses at school. Lunch recess and a short aftenoon recess. The rest of the day, they sit in classrooms where they are expected to sit and be quiet. Recess and lunch are their times to give their brains a break, run off energy and converse and socialize with their friends. I believe this is incredibly important, especially for small children!! When teachers punish them by taking away the only time they have in their entire day to get a break, I believe they are punishing themselves as well because they are going to have students who can't sit still because they didn't get to run off any energy! What sense does that even make?
2nd, I am completely fed up and tired of my kids being punished because of some other punk kids who can't behave!!! Drew says to me one day, "I don't even know why I bother being good when I get punished anyway" and he is exactly right. What kind of message do we send to our kids when we don't hold them accountable for their own actions?! Group punishment is both ineffective and unethical and I am extremely saddened that my child has had such a problem with it this year.
I tried to come up with reasons why teachers and aides would support punishment. I understand that in their minds, it creates a culture of compliance because the "good" students will nag the "bad" students into being good. I happen to think it has the exact opposite affect. Instead, you will see the "good" kids start breaking the rules too because why not?! They are being punished anyway, right?
In once instance this year, I did have a convo with one of the playground aides. She identified my son as one of the "good" kids and that she has never had any problems with him. So when I asked her why then did my son keep losing recess, her response to me was, "We have an unusually bad group of 3rd graders this year. We can't tell who is being bad from who is being good so we just punish them all." Well guess what?! Not in this lifetime! My son just got punished for the LAST time because of the actions of other children. I sent an email to both the principal and superintendent asking them to address the issue with their staff. Going forward, every time it happens, I will go into that school and turn that place upside down if I have to. But I'll be darned if my child is going to be punished one more time because another kid can't behave.
Going along with the same theme, the school also has many teachers who reward on a group level as well. In gym class, the class can receieve something called a "par bulldog" for good behavior but my sons class will never get that reward. Why? Because he has kids in his class with severe behavioral problems. I actually witnessed one of these kids eat a sucker stick and a set of plastic googly eyes that I gave him to use for a craft. He has severe learning and behavioral problems and I am pretty sure he might have a case of PICA the way he eats such strange objects. Regardless though, the rest of the class misses out on opportunities to be rewarded because of kids like this who can't control themselves. I just don't understand why they can't punish and reward kids on a individual basis. Give credit when credit is due.
To me, teachers who use group punishment are just plain lazy! They can't take the time to come up with more effective and fair ways to deal with problem kids so lets just punish everyone! Take the time to find who is causing the problem and then, hand the consequences out to that individual, not the innocent kids who are actually doing what they are supposed to!
We have 4 children. Each of our children have different personalities, different temperaments...so we expect different things out of each of them. But one thing that is consistent is that we treat each of them as individuals. When one of them breaks a rule, that one gets punished. Not all of them. When one of the does something really great, they get rewarded. I would never punish them as a group unless they were all guilty, it just wouldn't be fair.
The bottom line is, I send my kids out my door every day to go into a school where they have to sit from 8:45-3:45. That is 7 hours that I am entrusting their care to their teachers, aides, volunteers and leaders. They spend more of their waking hours through the week at school than they do at home and over my dead body are they going to continue being sent somewhere that has staff who obviously HATE kids!!! There are thousands of unemployed teachers in Ohio right now who would LOVE the opportunity to teach our children. If those who are there now can't handle their jobs without being mean and hateful to the kids, I think they need to be replaced.
What do you think about Group Punishment? Am I overreacting? I would love to hear your thoughts!