Collective punishment

Collective punishment is the punishment of a group for the actions of an individual. The logic is that if one terrorist (or freedom fighter) launches some kind of attack on an oppressor, then reprisals will be visited on his or her community. The threat of such retaliation is intended to quell civil disobedience before it even occurs through peer pressure: if I know you are planning something the authorities will object to I will seek persuade you not to carry out your plan so that I and the rest of our community will be spared the punishment which should rightfully be perpetrated just on you as the culprit.

In the second century BC, Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang instigated the practice of punishing the most serious of crimes with nine familial exterminations – everyone in the perpetrator’s extended family (classified into nine distinctly different groups)would be wiped out.

In Texas, 1906, two white soldiers were shot. No one knew who was responsible but they were fairly sure whoever it was must have been black, and so 167 black American soldiers received dishonourable discharges.

It can be a pretty effective system. The British army used collective punishment during the Boer War as did the Nazis and Stalin. There’s one minor drawback though: it’s a war crime specifically forbidden under the fourth Geneva Convention.

Article 33. No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Today I picked my daughter up from school. We were in a bit of a rush and I was irritated that she was almost 10 minutes late in coming out of her classroom. When I expressed my irritation, she told me her teacher had kept her behind. Normally she’s pretty well-behaved so I asked what she’d done. Nothing! Miss keeps us all behind every time one of the boys speaks.

Despite wanting to storm in and express just how unfair this practice is, in a rare moment of wisdom I managed to restrain myself. You see, I’ve been there. When a class is giving you a hard time one of the few deterrents available is to keep them behind after a lesson. Naturally no one wants to punish well-behaved children, but in the hurly burly of the classroom it can be difficult – nay impossible – to always correctly separate the guilty from the innocent. And so it’s easier – and, we tell ourselves, fairer, to punish everyone. But it’s a particularly stupid thing to do, for three reasons.

On the whole, kids that mess about in lessons don’t actually care if their peers are also kept in late. In fact, they tend to prefer it; it means they’re not alone to face the consequences of their actions. So it really doesn’t work as a deterrent.

There are bigger problems however. Collective punishment can create a perverse incentive to misbehave. If you know you’re going to be punished despite not having committed a crime, you might as well commit the crime – you’re paying for it after all. As a child, I used to take this view in disagreements with my younger brother. He’d tell me that if I didn’t do what he wanted he tell my mum I’d kicked him in his bad leg. Unmoved, I would then continue as before. He’d then shout, “Muuum! Agghh. David’s kicked me in my bad leg!” In the moments between his scream dying and the approach of my mother’s thunderous footsteps I’d think, what the Hell, and kick him.

The third problem with collective punishment is that it erodes the relationship between the teacher and the good kids. Even if they choose not to misbehave – and they’ll always be some who make the right choice (My daughter is fortunate to have inherited better genes from her mother!) – they’ll still feel the sting of injustice. They know their punishment is unfair. Of course they’ll resent the real culprits, but they’ll resent the teacher more. When authority appears arbitrary and iniquitous, over time more and more children tend to drift into mild and tacit naughtiness. Their sympathies shift and before you know it the bad lads are cast as Che Guevara and you, the well-intentioned teacher find yourself playing the Cuban dictator, Batista.

Whenever I’ve seen frustrated teachers deploy collective punishment, it’s usually a last, desperate act. The most frustrating part is that it’s actually very easy to avoid. Here follows my very simple solution to dealing with unidentified troublemakers in a way that doesn’t punish the compliant.

Firstly, you know who they are. You might not have caught them in the act, you might not be able to prove it beyond reasonable doubt, but you know. After all, they’ve often got form. You also know who is without sin. Some children never misbehave, whatever the provocation. It is never fair or acceptable to punish these poor, put-upon kids.

On those occasions (and there have been many) when I had to write minutes on the board to persuade errant pupils to follow basic instructions, when the end of the lesson came I would let the innocent go. Everyone would be made to stand quietly behind their desks and those I knew to be pure at heart would be allowed to leave. I would then launch into some variant of my ‘disappointed’ lecture. At this point there would be some pupils who tried the line, but it wasn’t me, or, but I wasn’t as bad as Tom. In response I would either say, Well, it is now, or, I know that, and the sooner I’ve finished speaking the sooner you will go and I will be able to speak to Tom privately. Now the next layer of minor miscreants can be released. They might not have done much, and they might not have been involved this particular time and you have shown you realise they are not the real problem.

Sooner or later you’ll be left with the hardcore. Now you can issue whatever punishment their behaviour seems to merit and is in line with your school’s behaviour policy safe in the knowledge that justice has prevailed. The innocent know you are a fair and even-handed judge and the guilty know they cannot hide behind the collateral damage of their peers.

Next time you’re tempted to stoop to collective punishment, remember there is an easier, fairer way.

37 Responses to Collective punishment

  1. Tim Taylor says:

    Hi David.
    I’m not in favour of collective punishment, but it seems to me your solution is not an answer.
    If you don’t know who the wrongdoer is then you are making an assumption they come from a particular group based on their previous form.
    How can this be just?
    You’re suggesting we divide our classes into three groups – those we believe are ‘without sin’; those we believe are ‘minor miscreants’; and those we believe are the ‘hardcore’.
    Then, when someone misbehaviours, if we don’t know who it is, we should let the first group leave unpunished, the second group get a minor telling off, and punish the third group – safe in the knowledge ‘justice has prevailed’.
    How can we do this knowing ‘justice has prevailed’?
    What lessons are our students learning?

    Here’s a hypothetical situation:
    I’m Tom, I haven’t been misbehaving in this lesson, but I’m getting punished because the teacher assumes I have, based on my previous record.
    I’m pretty annoyed about this. I think to myself, what’s the point in behaving myself with this teacher? I might as well misbehave, he’s going to punish me anyway.
    Isn’t this the lesson you learnt while kicking your brother?

    • Abi Browne says:

      Where to start… Well, firstly, collective punishment, as David pointed out, is damaging. It tarnishes all with the same brush and it sends out message ‘you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t’. David’s solution of grouping the behaviours will, at least in the interim, make the ones who do behave feel relieved/noticed etc. and there is a message being sent across that ‘good behaviour’ gets recognised and rewarded and ‘poor behaviour’ gets sanctioned. Ok, fine. However, and this is my big concern, labels are never good. Because they’re easy to stick on but difficult to peel off. What I mean here, is that if Harry is a ‘hardcore’ child, when he comes to you’re class he will always be a hardcore child. He will slip into this label because, although bad, it’s the norm, it’s a status and we all need to ‘belong’ in some shape, way or form. Now, Harry will feel more and more resentment towards Sally Saint as she is getting all the praise, rewards etc and how will he ever get there if he is a ‘hardcore’? Resentment will start to brew. And there will be more resentment towards the teacher as, of course, the students of choice to have in the classroom are the saintly ones, so the hardcores will feel marginalised. Further to this, does Sally Saint actually like the pressure of always having to be so ‘good’? Won’t she be subjected to bullying? Any time she speaks (I’m using her to represent a group, here btw), won’t there be some comment thrown her way? Won’t this make her either recoil into her shell for fear of not being ‘good’ or of being bullied? Or could it make her turn on you and become bolshy just to get some kudos?
      The thing is, every lesson should be a fresh, new one. Labels are backward looking and stifling. We need to allow the individual to have good and bad days, make good and bad choices and see how it impacts on them. This is the only way to help them learn about themselves and how they fit in society, but also that it’s not fixed.
      Kids don’t want to behave badly, really they don’t. It’s learned behaviour to get them what they crave which is love, belonging, self worth. So if Harry Hardcore is being hardcore, it’s probably because he doesn’t feel he fits in, he can’t access the learning as his self esteem is low, he’s not getting the love and attention that he wants from the people who mean the most to him. Similarly, Sally Saint may feel stifled into being the good quiet kid… This could impact on her confidence to speak out later on.

      So, what’s the ‘solution’? A starting point is taking time to scan the class to actually see who is doing what you’ve asked them to do and acknowledging it. We cannot come to conclusions on what we have not seen in that particular lesson. It’s about not buying into the labels, the ‘this child is bad and this child is good’ but looking at their behaviour in that lesson and trying to understand what it is actually communicating.

    • David Didau says:

      Hi Tim.

      If you were randomly punishing an individual that would of course be Kafkaesque in its absurdity. I’m talking about the very common situation in which a teacher KNOWS that individuals x, y, and z have all been behaving disruptively at some point during the lesson but neither one might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. They have all done wrong and all merit punishment. To let them off teaches them that teachers can be overwhelmed through weigth of numbers.

      Tom, in your scenario would not have been punished. He would have learned that justice prevails because those guilty of misdemeanors will have been punished and the rights of the innocent will have been preserved. What more do you want? Yes, I suppose this system is open to a teacher making a mistake but then no system is ever perfect. This is, in my experience, the best, fairest system I have been able to come up with. If you can suggest a better, fairer system then of course I would be interested.


      • Abi Browne says:

        Surely, then, what you’re saying is that you would have had to have ‘seen’ Tom misbehaving to include him in the group that get ‘punished’.
        For the record, the word ‘punishment’ doesn’t sit easily with me… It sounds too Victorian! (England Victorian).
        The problem lies when a child’s reputation walks in the door before them- then they have no hope.
        As I said, a solution focused approach, that I use with teachers I train, is to start with the positives first. Rather than who is misbehaving, look at who is behaving- write their names up on the board. It is easier to compile a list of those behaving the way you want because they look and sound the way you want them to behave. You can easily make eye contact with them. And praise spreads….
        Good discussion!

      • Tim Taylor says:

        Thanks for the clarification David.

        For me it’s about being just and being seen to be just. Tom is one of those kids who can feel his reputation surrounds him like a bad smell. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, adults make assumptions about what kind of person he is and what he’s likely to be doing. This is damaging to his life-chances and any hope he might have of a successful education.

        I’ve worked with a number of such children who switch school, either because they are expelled or because their parents pull them out before they’re pushed. Usually they arrive with a fat file of misdemeanours. Although I read them, I try as hard as I can not to pass judgement. How else can these kids ever live down their reputation?

        Returning to your blog. I never think it’s right to punish all the children in a class for the bad behaviour of a few. How can it possibly be so?

        Is there a better way? I have to say I’m quite reluctant to enter these conversations as context is everything. Generally I’m not in favour of punishing children, not because I think it’s unjust, but because I think it’s ineffective and counter-productive. I don’t mean we should ignore disruptive behaviour, but that punishment creates resentment and closes minds. I realise this makes me sound weak and lily-livered. All I can say is I’m really not. For me education is about building relationships and finding ways to reach kids (especially those like Tom), and punishing them (however justified) is corrosive to that process.

        • Abi Browne says:

          I agree, Tim. ‘Punishment’ for me has emotion attached to it; it seems to say ‘you have failed to comply with us therefore we will make you suffer for it’. It’s not helpful , it doesn’t make the child think ‘oh ok I’ll stop doing that now’ but more like ‘I hate them all and I don’t care what they do’. Equally, I have seen kids that move school because of behaviour and whose history is quickly spread around as a warning to all who may encounter him/her. It’s like ground hog day for them.
          I’m not saying ‘let them wreak havoc get away with it’, but actually more important is to talk with these kids, find out what is troubling them, help them understand their behaviour etc. of course, they need to understand that there has to be a consequence to theirs actions but not before they’re offered guidance on how to move on. I’ve worked with so many kids like this through one to one mentoring and the best thing for them is to listen and talk without judgement, helping them to understand themselves better but making them aware of the accountability they have for their behaviour.

          • Tim Taylor says:

            I wouldn’t say punishment never works (it clearly does in some circumstances), but that over time it becomes increasingly counter-productive and is corrosive to trusting relationships. Especially if it is perceived to be unjust; whatever the intention.

          • Abi Browne says:

            I just think that the term ‘punishment’ is archaic and has connotations of ‘an eye for an eye’. Consequence seems more objective. There is a danger that the ‘wrongdoer’ will feel victimised if the ‘punishment’ feels emotionally loaded, especially if they are a child, and then that overrides any acceptance of responsibility for the if behaviour.

    • nappits1443 says:

      Well you can bet your boots that ‘Tom’ has misbehaved and got away with things many times over. Tell Tom that he wins some, he loses some. That’s life.

      • Tim Taylor says:

        And Tom learns…?

        • nappits1443 says:

          Tom learns that you’re a teacher that firstly doesn’t waste time playing detective – Tom enjoys all that stuff. Secondly, that you’re a teacher who knows that you may or may not be able to change Tom’s behaviour- but that is not your primary aim of course. Thirdly, that you are a teacher who is a touch irrational – and ain’t they the ones to watch out for? Fourthly, that you’re a teacher who does his/her best for the hardworking and well behaved kids in your class. Whether Tom alters his behaviour or not, who cares? As long as he is made to realise that his poor behaviour isn’t given top-billing. Whole-class punishment – of course this is outrageous; but getting it wrong with Tom once in a while – no big deal. And strangely this in itself creates a good opportunity to build a positive relationship with him.

          • Tim Taylor says:

            I couldn’t disagree with you more. This is seeing the whole thing through teacher’s eyes rather than Tom’s. He’s the student, and it’s the teacher’s job to support and help him learn, not to treat him unjustly based on his reputation rather than his actions. Students treated like this will learn this is the way to treat others, in such a world we all burn.

          • David Didau says:

            Let’s forget (if we can) about Tom’s reputation. Let’s just deal with his behaviour. If it’s bad, it needs to change. The teacher’s job is primarily concerned with the class not the individual student. Mr Spock was, I’m afriad, wrong: the needs of the many do indeed outweigh the needs of the one. If Tom’s behaviour is jeopardising the performance and well being of the class then it must be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

            It is squeamishness about adult authority that will result in the teacher faffing while the classroom burns, and children will learn that what is accepted is acceptable.

    • A. Mann says:

      Personally, I think that you should never punish someone without hard evidence. Visual or recorded. How do we then cope with pranks and results from the offenders? I would say ignore the behavior as you would a two year old acting out. I would post your punishment for people caught directly and make it harsh. Be tough but fair. Don’t assume that good kids are good. Bullying happens behind the scenes. You might catch a good kid defending himself against a bully that you think is a good kid and punish him merely based on your perception. The onus is on the teacher or leader to gather all the facts via investigation or observation and make sound judgment. Rushed punishment and judgment lead to severe loss in credibility. A child’s previous record is not condemnation for a new crime. If you use proper corrective action in the first incident, your leadership may have led that child on the right path. Now what kind of leader are you to write that child off after your sound guidance was exercised. The leadership I practice never writes or sells someone off to a stereotype, group, or label. People are who they chose to be at the time to chose to commit an act. They are nothing more and nothing less. What they did in the past has no bearing on their potential for the future. Often we say “This boy is a troublemaker, he needs a lot of help.” Then post-punishment induce ostracism and isolation by refusing him help because he has not earned it. Troublemaker deserve the most aid and help all the way up until they are expelled from school. IT IS YOUR DUTY as a leader and a TEACHER to do so. You may be in the wrong profession if you believe otherwise. A standard teacher takes good children and ushers them forward on the path they were already set upon. A GREAT TEACHER takes a child that strays and gives them confidence to fix themselves and learn from their errors.
      Maybe the issue with teachers and professors is that they never truly lead their students. They don’t see them as human capital in any sense at all. Your students are human capital to society. Every single one of them. The minute you write them off, you degrade their self-worth and tell them they have no human capital.
      A man in my organization has often been known as a grumbler and a lazy person. He refuses to do work because he is disillusioned and makes it known to all his peers. When he arrived in my section, I was forced with a dilemma. Do I write this guy off and take a hardline with him? Or do I treat him with respect and give him goals and trust him with simple, but important tasks to build him up? The knee-jerk reaction to this dilemma is to write him off because he has not “earned” respect or he has spat upon his record in the past. If you do this, you have become the self-appointed judge jury and executioner of this man’s reputation.
      I opened dialogue with this man, and he expressed that his leadership has failed him because no matter how hard he tried or how hard he pushed himself he was never enabled to do the job he signed up to do. He felt he has been written off from day one. His reputation snow-balled from initial mal-content which stemmed from never being trusted or one important individual labeling him a lost cause. If everyone thinks he is a lost cause, how could he commit to the organization? I told this man what people in the organization believed of him, what he had to overcome in order to change that perception. I told him in my section everyone either promotes themselves or writes themselves off. I gave him all the tasks his predecessor had and gave him my expectations on how to complete them correctly. I explained to him that he would meet the standard at a minimum and that punishment for him would be the same as it was for the rest of the shop. I have not had a problem with this man yet. He works hard and he likes being trusted with tasks and duties. There is a big difference from someone who is a criminal and someone who needs purpose. Give a man or woman purpose and see them take themselves to the next level. Write them off and see that flame extinguished.

  2. Abi Browne says:

    Can do! Get frustrated by the word limits but we can but try !

  3. Tim Taylor says:

    I’m all for the collective and believe (in most circumstances) the needs of the community out-weigh the needs of the one. Nevertheless, we have an obligation to protect the rights of each individual member. That’s what defines civilisation and protects each of us from tyranny. Classrooms are small communities and the values and rights we promote in the classroom should (in my opinion) reflect the values and rights we want to promote in society as a whole. My concern for Tom does not come from a squeamishness about adult authority, rather it comes from a belief that (as the one in charge) I have to do my best to treat everyone in my class justly, whatever their background or reputation.

    Therefore, if I have no evidence of Tom misbehaving, I simple can’t punish him and still claim my classroom operates as a just and moral community.

    Of course if I see Tom disturbing the lesson and making it difficult for the other students to learn, then I have an obligation (professional and moral) to intervene and protect the community from Tom’s anti-social behaviour. On this last point I think we agree.

    • Abi Browne says:

      I agree with Tim. Whatever he learns he can/can’t do in a classroom and how he is dealt with by an adult he will take away with him; for good or for bad. If he gets quashed in one lesson, he’ll take it out on someone else – a peer or a more vulnerable adult, because he is a power seeker and that’s what power seekers do, if their needs are not addressed and understood. Of course it goes beyond the responsibility of just the teacher to work with Tom, however, Tom needs to see the classroom, as Tim suggested, as a microcosm of society, where fairness and order (should) prevail. If Tom has not been seen to do anything wrong then recognise his effort. If he has then he is dealt with in the same way that any student is who has stepped over the boundaries. But no more so because of his reputation (or less so, because some teachers can stretch boundaries for difficult kids to give them a chance, which is not helpful to them either).

      • David Didau says:

        That is a terrible argument! Teachers should leave Tom alone in case he takes it out on someone else?

        Let me repeat myself for the third time: I am referring to a situation is which I KNOW FOR A CERTAIN FACT that Tom has misbehaved. I hope that’s clear.

        • Abi Browne says:

          David, I’m sorry but your blog says ‘constructive feedback is always appreciated’… However I’m not sure ‘this is a terrible argument’ falls in line with that! Discussions are great and healthy and I’ve been enjoying this one!: we don’t need to agree with each other as long as we say it respectfully! You wouldn’t tell a student their argument was terrible.. And we adults have feelings too! Just saying…

          • David Didau says:

            Abi – just because I think your argument is terrible doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate feedback. Nor does it mean I think you are terrible. But in this case your line of reasoning seems indefensible.

            I absolutely would tell a student their reasoning was poor – to do otherwise is to display fatally low expectations. But in any case, you’re not a student. Should the same ‘rules’ apply? Rather than tick me off for dissing your argument, why not defend it?


      • @ephemeral321 says:

        “If Tom has not been seen to do anything wrong”

        Let me give you an example of how damaging this thinking can be for other children.

        A boy had a long history of hurting my son, particular highlights include pulling him of a climbing wall, stamping on his groin, putting his hands around my son’s throat on various occasions (we only discovered it was more than once through an FOI request), knocking him to the ground, hitting him across the head in a lesson – the teacher imprudently sat them together to help the boy. Yet another incident, this time a punch to the stomach. The HT separately interviewed my son and the boy and two friends of the boy before putting them all together in a room (for the record this is not how to do restorative justice). The HT then announced that because he had different stories from the children he was unable to take any action but he hoped it wouldn’t happen again. With this pronouncement the lead adult in the school, in the presence of the classteacher who was also the anti-bullying lead, communicated to those children that they held the power, and word spread.

        My son stopped telling (which helps keep bullying numbers down). Within 2 months two other boys felt confident enough to walk across the room during a lesson, with the teacher present, to punch my son four times in the groin. The classteacher did not see the assault. When questioned by the classteacher one of the boys admitted he had done it, corroborating my son’s account. The second boy denied it. The boy who admitted it was supposed to be punished (it didn’t happen). The boy who denied it was not recognised to have been involved or held to account.

        Fast forward to 16 months. After leaving Y6 our son attended a primary school event with his younger sister. The first boy was there and he asked my son why he wasn’t dead yet. Those kids, unchallenged because they weren’t seen by the teacher, understood who held the power in that school.

        The statement “Whatever he learns he can/can’t do in a classroom and how he is dealt with by an adult he will take away with him; for good or for bad” is very much correct. Just as the other children watch this dynamic and it informs their understanding and behaviour. The microcosm you have created is not a fair world when it is other children who are impacted, quite seriously sometimes.

        I’m a parent. I know there isn’t a foolproof method of dealing with these situations. However, it does seem that Nappits 1443 has the measure of the children, a constructive method for dealing with situations he has not personally witnessed, and crucially retains the power as the adult in charge of young lives. Adults who assume they must personally witness an event in order to deal with it introduce unnecessary risk and disruption into the lives of all their pupils. It is fatally flawed because most bullying behaviour is done out of sight: when it starts happening with teachers present the adult authority has been lost, probably for some time.

        Abi, I understand what you think you are achieving. But the message you share is damagingly confused and the ripples of consequences from it will be felt by others who, too often, are implicitly or explicitly taught to remain silent.

    • David Didau says:

      Right. Well your last paragraph is the only one that has any bearing on my post. I’ve no interest in randomly persecuting Tom on vague unfounded suspicions.

    • nappits1443 says:

      Teacher: Tom (and friends) I’d like you to come back at break time because of what you have been doing in my lesson please.
      Tom: What! But sir, I’ve done nothing!
      Teacher: Breaktime. Here. The end.
      Tom: But sir!
      Teacher: breaktime.
      Tom: But…!
      Teacher: Tom. Let’s just suppose I’m wrong, and you weren’t involved – I’m not wrong, but let’s just suppose I am. Have you ever behaved badly in class and got away with it? Honestly. (Knowing smile)
      Tom: er… Well, yeah. I have, yeah.
      Teacher: well, (another knowing smile), I’m afraid, if I am wrong about you this time, you’re just going to have to take this on the chin. Let’s just say, this is for one of those times.

      This is the seed of a future positive relationship with ol’ Tom. Why? Because teacher wins; Tom wins, (he’s got away with many more misdemeanors than the teacher is nailing him for) in the medium to long run; and the class wins when the teacher’s relationship with Tommy Gun is improved for the rest of the year.

      That, in a nutshell, teaches Tom about fairness in my classroom. It works.

  4. 52 Quotes says:

    Beautifully done…and that is where the relationship with the individual pays dividends for the individual and the group. That and an acknowledgement that the teacher/adult is not all-knowing but does actually know the student/child. And that they are trying to be fair but don’t always accomplish what they set out to do. This is the kind of scenario I would expect from anyone in every day practice and see similar scenarios in youth work all the time. Thanks for bringing the discussion to a point where I could be reminded of what is important…not the punishment or the power or the having to be right but honesty, relationship and fairness.

    • nappits1443 says:

      Thank you 52Quotes. I just think that we could all waste time scratching around at the edges of poor behaviour with a fork, or we could take the pneumatic drill to it.

  5. Phil H says:

    I wonder about class cohesiveness, though. All of the arguments above stress the individual child’s relationship with the teacher. But at my son’s school, the teachers lay a lot of emphasis on the class as a unit, who should be kind to and support one another. So it seems reasonable that the teacher would sometimes deal with the class as a unit – mostly positively, but it could be negatively as well.
    I’m thinking back to my school days, and I remember feeling much stronger bonds to my peers than I did to my teachers. So when this happened to me, I didn’t feel betrayed by the teacher. We as a class knew the rules, and we as a class broke them, and sure that was unfair on me if I wasn’t the one who spoke out of turn, but it wasn’t nearly as unfair as the cosmic injustice of having to go to school in the first place.

    • David Didau says:

      If a single individual doesn’t break the rules is it still reasonable to say “we as a class broke them”?

      • Phil H says:

        Yes. I said it, and I meant it. I’m making this claim not as a universal truth, but as a memory: as a child, this happened to me, and I did not blame the teacher. As I recall, I didn’t really blame my classmate, either. It just seemed like one of those things.
        I think the thing I’m getting at is that as a child – before the age of about 15 – I never consciously understood the school rules. They all just seemed like petty burdens the teachers imposed on us. So there was no distinction in my mind between good/fair rules and bad/unfair rules. They were all unfair!

  6. teachwell says:

    You know the more I read and experience, the more I just think only immature adults can truly advocate all this “individuals, self esteem, don’t call it punishment” train of thought. I think it is to do with the obsession with youth culture, etc over the past 30 years. Personally, adult authority is a behaviour trait we have retained as a species as it is the most effective way of passing on what we need to, to the next generation so they don’t grow up ignorant of how to live. It is always possible to innovate from that place.

    It is always assumed that teachers who are more nurturing have better relationships with their pupils – is there actually any evidence of this? I think its another one for the ‘but it should be that way because the ideology behind it tells me so’.

  7. […] as far as possible – with a smile. Be fair and even handed. Never be tempted into using collective punishment: they will hate you for it. Take time to get to know the students you teach. Learn their names and […]

  8. […] enough that it is put ‘on report’ collectively. This is particularly nasty example of collective punishment and is therefore both lazy and […]

  9. […] Learning Spy  deploys an approach which involves gradually releasing students until the right person can be identified and dealt with. Larry Ferlazzo, in The Happy School, advocates a gentle approach that happens more discreetly than the public display of anger and disappointment in front of the whole class that often takes place. Playworks advicates 6 ways teachers can build a collaborative contract with their students so that collective punishment such as withholding break-time doesn’t have to be an option. […]

  10. […] she was in primary school, my eldest daughter had a teacher who believed in the power of collective punishment, and, as a well-behaved, hard-working pupil she was made to suffer for the poor behaviour of some […]

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