An eye for an eye. A widely known expression, this is the idea that when one individual wrongs another, reprisal must be made and the offender penalized to a similar degree. This concept is all too often evidenced in our school systems today. It is no foreign concept that certain students will break rules, refuse to obey authority figures, or behave inappropriately or irresponsibly. Depending on the severity of the offence, varying repercussions result. Of course, all schools are different, but punishments ranging from detention to verbal lashings coupled with harsh punishments such as suspension or expulsion are quite commonplace. But what effect is this having on students? What are we inadvertently teaching them?
The following blog consists of an overview and personal response to an article in Communiqué, an official publication of the National Association of School Psychologists. The article is titled, Promoting Safe Schools and Academic Success: Moving Your School From Punitive Discipline to Effective Discipline, and written by Rivka I. Olley, Andrea Cohn, and Katherine C. Cowan. The article may be found on the ERIC database (via the U of L library). After briefly examining the effects of punitive discipline versus alternative discipline, the article then proceeds into a variety of initiatives targeting the implementation of positive discipline strategies. In essence, my goal is to relay the importance of doing our best, as educators, to help each individual student to succeed, no matter their past or present, and to advance this objective to be applied as a school-wide policy, giving each student a future. Part of helping each individual student succeed, is re-evaluating our methodology, in this case replacing punishment with alternate effective approaches to discipline and attending to those whom the system is rejecting. Believe in each student. Replace punishment with hope.
Promoting Safe Schools and Academic Success: Moving Your School From Punitive Discipline to Effective Discipline begins by giving an overview of both punitive and alternative discipline. Olley, Cohn, and Cowan state that in order for schools to be safe and supportive learning centers, effective discipline is a must (2010). Seeing as how a large number of schools presently rely on punitive discipline, they argue that there is a better way. School leaders are slowly opening up to the evidence that psychologists have been gathering for some time now: “Purely punitive discipline is ineffective at best and often even counterproductive, denying students vital learning time and undermining the overall school climate” (Olley et al., 2010, p. 1). In fact, evidence shows that drastic punishments such as suspension and expulsion fail to bring about reformative action within students’ lives. It does, however, as stated in the article (2010), bring about additional behavioural issues, decreasing grades, and heighten dropout rates as well as cases of juvenile delinquency and imprisonment.
School psychologists are strongly encouraging educators to implement positive discipline methods. In fact, Olley, Cohn, and Cowan state that when “caring environments with high expectations for student academic engagement and success that allows for intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth (are created), student behaviour problems decrease and at the same time academic achievement increases” (2010, p. 1). As a result schools are beginning to embrace alternative discipline methods. Some suggested methods of doing so include:
· Reinforce existing positive behaviour and self-discipline, and model and teach those students lacking in these areas what they consist of,
· Discern the reasoning behind a students’ negative actions,
· Nip negative behaviours in the bud before they can escalate,
· Lay down consequences that are compatible with the negative behaviour, and
· Ensure that students are exposed to necessary instruction needed in order to accomplish academic advancement (Olley et al., 2010).
Even though one’s school may adhere to punitive practices, individual teachers can make a difference. The article gives extensive approaches of getting school administration and staff onboard, navigating toward effective discipline and away from destructive punitive discipline. Educators may advance positive discipline strategies from the inside by communicating the benefits of positive discipline, collecting and informing others of school specific data, sharing what works for other schools (prevention programs, positive disciplinary actions, classroom management tips, etc.) (Olley et al., 2010). Because all educators much prefer learning to take place during school hours, as opposed to non-productive disciplinary action, once they see the benefits of alternative discipline for all involved parties, they will undoubtedly become committed to the cause.
I agree with Olley, Cohn, and Cowan 100%. If there is a part of the school system that is hurting our students, it is our duty to change it. Even if we are the only ones that see it’s destructiveness. I attribute my belief in the alternative discipline system to increased awareness and facts. I can also personally attest to having seen punitive discipline backfire in my own life as a student. One example of failed punitive discipline is as follows: In junior high, two of the class clowns tripped another classmate so that he fell directly into a mud puddle. This poor young man was dripping and dirty and laughed at for the remainder of the day. This was not the first time he had been bullied by these particular students. The teacher, deciding to teach the culprits a lesson, had the class congregate outside around the mud puddle. He then commanded the two young men at fault to lie down in the puddle while the others laughed at their expense. The class waited for quite some time before one of the boys complied. The other refused and was suspended pending an apology to both the student and the teacher. He never returned to school.
What was the cost of my former teacher’s punitive actions? Among other costs, first of all, much time, which could have been spent in academics, was wasted by the whole class. Second, he extended the notion that it’s okay for those in authority to be bullies. Third, he destroyed the second young man’s academic future. Yes, the teacher’s punitive discipline ensured that this particular offence would not be repeated, but it also ensured a loss of respect from his entire class body.
It is a proven fact that punitive discipline is counterproductive. An extensive study done on the topic supports Olley et al., in that:
Frequent use of suspension has no measurable positive deterrent or academic benefit to either the students who are suspended or to nonsuspended students. As this research shows, disciplining elementary and middle school students with out-of-school suspension predicts future suspensions and contributes to students’ poor academic performance and failing to graduate on time. Out-of-school suspension is ineffective because it fails to address issues that cause students to misbehave (Mendez, 2003, p. 25).
These concepts have been studied at large and are strongly supported by such researchers as Russell Skiba and Karega M. Rausch (2006).
Furthermore, punitive discipline sends underlying messages. A students’ discernment of a punishment often brings about feelings of oppression, powerlessness, anger, rejection, humiliation, inadequacy, worthlessness, hopelessness, etc (Bailey, 2003, p. 54). Repeated exposure to these settings can cause students to make negative decisions regarding their self-worth, which could stay with them throughout their lives, effecting their every decision.
As a budding teacher, I desire to bless my students with effective discipline. I wish to teach them self discipline and to see the cause and effect of behaviour within themselves. I want to reinforce and enrich my students’ self-value, not tear it down. My ambition is to use effective discipline practice, as Olley et al. state, to “define positive behavioral expectations; teach, model, and reinforce specific skills; employ logical, appropriate consequences for misconduct; and use sanctions as a learning opportunity”(2010, p.2).
It is only natural that we, as educators, fall back on the techniques we have been exposed to in our own schooling experience, but we must bring a conversion about in this regard. If we, the teachers of today, fail to abort punitive discipline we continue the cycle, destroying more students’ lives and inadvertently ingraining tomorrow’s teachers to use the same methods. It is in our hands to stop this punitive behaviour that is destroying our students’ futures. As a saying (attributed to Ghandi) states, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
Bailey, Becky Anne. (2003). There’s got to be a better way: discipline that works. Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance, Inc.
Mendez, Linda M. Raffliele. (2003, autumn). Predictors of suspension and negative school outcomes: A longitudinal investigation. New directions for youth development, 2003, (99).
Olley, Rivka I., Cohn, Andrea and Cowan, Katherine C. (2010, September). Promoting Safe Schools and Academic Success: Moving Your School From Punitive Discipline to Effective Discipline. Communiqué: National Association of School Psychologists, 39, (1).
Skiba, Russell and Rausch, Karega M. (2006). Children’s Needs III: development, prevention, and intervention. School disciplinary systems: alternatives to suspension and expulsion. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Wow, those little people are complex!! I have learned a tremendous amount of information in Ed 4738. Some of the most significant things I have learned are included below.
Reading aloud to young children can prove magical. I remember how thrilled and intrigued I was as a child when listening to a story. (Truth be told, I still am!) In this class I learned that in addition to all the wonderful creativity and literary benefits I knew reading aloud held, it also holds the magic of unconsciously teaching a child to read. Some parents have suddenly found that their child was reading all on their own and having gone to the child's teacher in gratitude, are told that their classmates are way behind in reading and the greatest attribute of the child's reading success comes from being read to aloud. How inspiring!
Engaging students at their own level of learning also came out strongly in Ed 4738. It is in fact key to motivating students of all walks of life to learn. It's our job to find out HOW to engage them however. All children want to learn, some just need to be engaged in ways that personally resonate with them. Therefore, we must know our students at a deeper level than mere academics. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate! Find ways for varying students to show their strengths by offering them endless choices in showing evidence of their learning.
Don't reinvent the wheel. Beg, borrow or steal what others already created, when it comes to theories, management, assessment, resources, etc. Teachers are collaborators and therein lies their creativity and success!
Other tidbits of wealth in teaching that I picked up in the last 2 months include:
* Be proactive instead of reactive in classroom management. Have routines for everything and practice them into habit.
* Play is learning too! (See Importance of Engaging Students in Play tab)
* Safe classroom environments are essential (See Student Needs Regarding Security tab)
* Parents are more than just the people who take our students in at night. They are a gold nugget to have in our educational mining field where their child is concerned. (See Importance of Engaging Parents tab)
* And my personal favorite: Fake it 'til you make it!
Thanks so much Ellen!
Seeing the Royal Tyrell Museum video conference and the different techniques used was really neat and lead to a number of ideas of incorporating something like this into a classroom. Actually having the instructor there, being able to see and hear the students would make a video conference so much more interesting than a video or textbook lesson. Having a professional in the particular area being studied, also allows for the students to attain a more in depth understanding than the regular teacher may be able to provide. I was amazed at how interactive the instructor was able to make the video conference, having us working in groups, collaborating amongst ourselves, using many gestures and having us follow suit, asking questions and answering student questions, etc. She was very personable, despite us being on a video conference, and utilized a number of teaching techniques that we have been made aware of as well (different level questions, wait time, collaboration, clear communication and expectations, review and assessment, etc). Video conferencing is doubtless a tool that I would consider using for lessons in a regular classroom setting.
It was intriguing to see how many different ways teachers can utilize spreadsheets in a classroom, no matter what grade level. It can be used for unlimited projects, such as gathering, manipulating, calculating, and representing data of all sorts. It could be used in:
-science: chart and graph collected data and results from experiments,
-phys. ed.: track scores, record health info (heart rate, breathing, muscle mass, etc.)
-english: recording and comparing various types of literature, books for different levels, verb endings,
-social studies: surveys of all kinds, population, charting info (natural resources in different areas, government leaders, etc.)
-math: formula manipulation, graphing, compiling number data,
There are so many opportunities to utilize spreadsheets in the classroom. They are as extensive as your imagination, really. I'm glad to have been exposed to thinking more creatively about the use of spreadsheets and some of the spreadsheet programs available.
I find it absolutely amazing to see how critical any digital technology has become to our society, inside of the classroom and out. Looking back just 20 years, we see that life was so different without the high degree of technology use in everyday life we have today. I definately see it as a beneficial tool, but it seems that one needs to really keep on top of things in order to keep educated about safe usage of these tools. Jumping onto the bandwagon is one thing, doing so safely is something else entirely!
Simply skimming the top of what I've learned this semester in incorporating technology into the classroom, I would say the number one aspect that was stressed was safe usage. I've learned how to use many potentially helpful tools, but what really sticks out is implementing them in a safe manner, both personally, as an educator, and in regards with my students. Some of the aspects that really caught my attention in the last lesson include building students' standards of ethical behavior. This concerns their sense of identity, privacy, and ownership, as well as the trustworthyness and credibility of varying digital information. Teaching students the meaning of being an active member the cyberspace community and safely being an active member therein, is also essential. The great thing is that I am not just thrown in the lake with knowing how to teach these critical elements of technology usage to students. There is a tremendous amount of helpful material and tools in that same digital community, just waiting to be found and utilized in teaching the safe use of itself.
Concept mapping (aka webbing) seems to be a great visual learning tool for
students. Connecting it to this week’s Ed psyc class, it could be a quick and
easy way of incorporating visual learning in to a class setting, showing
relationships by connecting varying ideas or concepts. Working with the program
Inspiration during class made me realize that webbing or mapping could be very
effective for planning lessons or providing instruction in a different of
effective method than the norm. That it allows for instant conversion into point
or outline form is a definite bonus too! Describing ideas in pictorial form
through this graphical organization method, may be a helpful tool in presenting
information effectively, as it has been proven to increase student understanding
and even retention of the presented information. This is based on the fact that
when information is seen and comprehended in picture form (possibly including
patterning, color, separate words or phrases seen associated to an image, etc.)
it can be easier to remember for many people. It has also been linked to
building critical thinking skills.
Effective as concept mapping can be to the learning process, it can be used as an effective evaluation tool too. Students may be instructed to show their understanding of something through the creation of a web, personally deciding what ties in where, how many concepts to include, how/where they are connected, what words/descriptions to use to explain relationships, etc. The teacher would, of course, need to decide if quality or quantity of knowledge were important, depending on the activity.
Learning about differing search engines proved very helpful for this week’s
assignment and will be of further benefit for future projects as well. I was
aware of some of the internet search tips we learned about, but found that
others I learned about would prove very valuable in research for an exact topic,
cutting down on much time wasted sorting through sites that were not applicable
to my searches.
Just this week my sister, a college student, had to rewrite a paper three times, after not properly backing up her paper and losing it twice. This really put the warnings to always have one’s work saved in more than one safe way, coupled with effective backup techniques, into clear perspective for me.
Learning about different “child friendly” search engines is something that will definitely make me feel more at ease in instructing students to use the internet for varying projects.
I was quite intrigued by how useful a smart board could be in the hands of someone who really knows how to use it. It was amazing to see all the
different features it has and to realize how extensively it could be used in a
classroom, no matter what the grade level or subject may be. At first I felt a
little wary about learning to use the smart board because I have never had the
opportunity to use one or see it used in a classroom setting. Now, knowing that
there are tons of helpful tutorials covering the “how to” issues, I am looking
forward to experimenting. It also helps a lot to know that there are countless
toolkits and templates available online so that one doesn’t have to do everything from scratch all the time, but has other teachers’ ideas available as well. Seeing how interactive different lessons can be made, it’s easy to see how students would put more vigour and excitement into learning on a smart board, as opposed to a chalkboard or whiteboard. Besides that, it looks very practical,
helpful in explaining and quickly providing visuals and such. It would also be a
fabulous way to incorporate kinetic learning, since the students can actually
touch, drag, draw and otherwise manipulate words and objects on it while
This week we examined various techniques of making power points effective. Thinking back to some of the PowerPoint presentations that I sat through in the past, I must say I've seen my share of presentations focused around glitzomania and distracting backgrounds or pictures. Now I realize why my focus wandered during some of these presentations, and my curiosity and imagination took my focus elsewhere completely. However undeliberately, the PowerPoint was designed in a way which encouraged one's focus to shift. Anyone would have issues focusing on a rant pertaining to the neurological signals going to and from the brain when one sees a monkey scurrying up and down a ladder sloshing water from it's pail in the meantime! I imagine you even lost your focus just reading that and contemplating it's connection to neurological science. That definately goes to show how important it is to keep one's presentation focused and clear, without any unnecessary distracters. I was also intrigued by the idea that effective PowerPoints are more about storytelling than merely presenting an audience with information, and that it's the presenter's job to make it a compelling story that reaches out and grabs the attention of those present.
Although I have never come across it in my prior education, I have read a number of articles online which have teachers assigning their students to write online blogs. There are some who have their students start blogging as soon as grade 2. Most assignments would, of course, have the same function as traditional paper and pencil assignments: practice at converting one's thoughts, whether factual or imaginary, into written word. My primary reaction was that there are certainly better ways to save paper, but it does appear to have some great benefits:
· Since blogs remain online and have continued chronological entries, a teacher would be better able to assess a student's progression throughout a school year and chart scaffold learning.
· Prompt constructive feedback from teachers, peers, and possibly an even greater audience would prove beneficial for self-regulated progression.
· Blogs are very user friendly and as accessible as the nearest computer.
· Students who may otherwise not feel comfortable sharing their ideas in class, have an alternative form of expression to do so in the blogging world, and still receive feedback.
Sounds great doesn't it? Personally speaking, I still have some holdups when
it comes to young students blogging on the world wide web. Yes, teachers take
huge precautions, strictly educating the students on the importance of personal
security (never revealing one's name, address, etc.), personal privacy and that
of others, proper online behaviour, and so on. Yes, they get signed parental
permission. Yes, their school blogs are constantly monitored. BUT, in my opinion
it is still relatively risky to have young students constantly involved in
online blogging. Unfortunately, there are online predators out there and upon
numerous friendly comments from cyberspace, children may begin to feel a
connection. Being naturally trusting and curious, young students could slip up
and give out traceable information, despite being taught to be cautious, which
could prove dangerous. Cyber bullying is also a very real issue, which could
begin with seemingly innocent comments and escalate. Despite all the precautions teachers and parents might take, bad things do happen. Beyond the above mentioned risk factors, how challenging wouldn’t it be to stay on top of
supervising 25 students with full internet access, and reviewing all online work
and commentary? There are constant distractions available online, which could
also lead to tremendous amounts of school time wasted, and possibly even student exposure to very inappropriate sites. I’m not saying I wouldn’t consider using student blogging at all, but that the personal risks to students and the threat to wise time management may not be worth it.