Does Punishment Work in Our Schools?

As a former teacher, I found that one of the greatest anxieties I faced, and I believe many other teachers face, is “How do I manage my classroom so all students can learn?”  Well, Dr. Lori Cooper, a friend and colleague, stated in a recent presentation, “When children struggle with reading we teach them, when children struggle with math we provide support so they can achieve, however when children struggle with managing their behavior, we punish them.”

There is so much truth to that statement. How many of our schools still remove students from the classroom or playground, impose in and out of school suspension, etc.

In an article from the “Highly Effective Teacher,” they identified several reasons why punishment DOES NOT work.

  1. Punishment and zero tolerance policies try to repress inappropriate behavior, however, they foster resentment and increase violence, aggression and truancy. An Australian study found that students were 4.5 times more likely to engage in criminal activity when they were suspended compared to when they were truant.
  2. Punishment does not teach alternative behavior or give a student practice at using more appropriate behaviors.  Students who struggle to behave appropriately, need prompts and scaffolds to learn how to relate to others and function productively in the school and later in life.
  3. Punishment undermines relationships. When we use punishment or punitive consequences, we risk losing the trust and connection that we have built with a student. These students often have a history of fragile relationships with others and so do not trust easily.
  4. Punishment does not address the learning needs of the student. 80% of students with disruptive behavior are lacking academic skills. What are the contributing factors in the environment that inhibit the student’s learning and ability to behave appropriately? Is the student failing school or is school failing the student?

Think about this, we have jails filled with people who do not respond to the threat of incarceration so why do we think losing recess or suspension will change a student’s behavior? Let’s be honest, we as educators know that punishment doesn’t work, we have been punishing students for decades and the problems still persist.  So why are we so reluctant to change?

We Need a Different Approach.

Paraphrased from an article published by Dr. Dustine Rey, schools that have implemented programs designed to help students better identify and manage their emotions, establish respectful caring relationships and resolve conflicts, using non-violent means, have seen significant decreases in poor student behavior.

A decade of research shows that children who are engaged in a high-quality social and emotional program, will dramatically reduce aggression and increase social and emotional understanding. Children who have participated in such school programs are kinder, more cooperative, inclusive of others, less aggressive and less likely to bully others.

If you are ready to change how your school deals with student behavior, please check out the Carrie Flower Curriculum.  Help us make our world a better place!

Until Next Time … Dr. G.