I have faced this type of problem in my classroom many times. I may have tried the "whole class" discipline approach described in the scenario one time. It was a terrible mistake.
I am busily teaching my lesson and doing my best to draw everyone into the activity when a few merry pranksters decide to have a little fun. As I turn to write my key notes on the chalkboard, the offenders launch a massive spitwad attack that sends the class into an immediate outbreak of hysterical laughter.
I turn back around to face the class and see poor little Susie Goodshoes with two gigantic slimy balls of masticated paper sliding down her face. Embarrassed and in tears, Susie runs out of the room. I send her good friend Betty True to the restroom to assist Susie, restore order, and begin to determine who could have done such a terrible thing.
Try as I might to get the offenders to admit their guilt, the student code of silence prevails. No one wants to be a "rat." I talk with Susie and Betty after class, and although Susie is thoroughly humiliated, she will not say who did the deed. I investigate further to no avail.
Now, I am faced with the problem of disciplining the guilty parties and improving my own classroom management. My day had turned from gold to black, and I am super pissed. Yet, I am still determined to catch the rascals and bring them to justice.
The next day, I decide that I have found the perfect solution. Unless someone admits guilt or leads me to the culprits, I will apply the "old pressure cooker" and punish the entire class for the infractions of a few. And, I know just how to do it.
I make an additional assignment to everyone in the class. The purpose of the assignment is to teach about dependency -- people need to speak up about wrongdoings to help others receive necessary justice.
Disciplinary Assignment to be Completed by the Entire Class: Write this quote 50 times, and after your 50th copy, explain in a paragraph of at least 100 words what the quote means.
"One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it." -Marin Luther King, Jr.
Some teachers still uphold the value of mass discipline and practice punishing the entire class for the actions of one (or a few). I believe this is wrong. I think the teacher loses respect by applying this illogical form of discipline. I strongly suggest that student teachers and first-year teachers never add this method of discipline to their "bag" of techniques. It is a common "rookie" mistake. It just may cost them employment, and it will surely cause them tremendous additional trouble.
Consider the outcome of punishing an entire class:
- Will the students understand why they are being punished, especially if they did nothing wrong?
- Will the misbehaving student understand that they are the reason that everyone is being punished?
- Will parents complain if this discipline technique is used?
Please, let me support my position.
Honestly, it isn't the job of fellow students to keep other students in line.
It is the job of classroom teachers and administrators. They have been educated about discipline and about using effective methods to help students respect each other. Expecting a student to break the cardinal rule by "tattling" is unacceptable unless the offense is very serious. Disrespectful classroom antics will occur -- it's part of the territory. Most students would never jeopardize their peer reputations to get a classmate in trouble, and many are simply afraid of retribution from a bully.
Adults in the workplace are rarely penalized for the ill-behavior of others.
Why would they be penalized when most are working their tails off every day. Instilling such an idea in schools is both nonproductive and unrealistic. If an adult misbehaves and violates company policy, that adult alone faces disciplinary action.
True, I have attended teachers' meetings in which an administrator has counseled the group about the poor behaviors of an unnamed few -- too many absences, cautions about poor classroom management, infractions in grading -- and I became angered that my boss didn't confront the guilty individuals in private. We never received group discipline; however, I often felt belittled by such general addresses. If we had been disciplined for the misdoings of a few, I would have harbored resentment, not just disgust.
As well-behaved students feel unjustly punished, even they will likely misbehave.
Group discipline flies in the face of positive discipline. Well-behaved students should be rewarded for their good behavior and industry and never unfairly punished. Instead of looking for fault, good teachers make it a practice to let their students know when they are being good. By doing so, students realize the teacher's attention is not always reserved for those kids being disruptive.
For those kids that enjoy the attention they get when misbehaving, it soon becomes evident that good behavior will gain them even more attention from the teacher.
On the other hand, an unjust punishment hardens a student and draws him/her closer to seeking revenge on the teacher.
Most students who misbehave feel more powerful because their choices got other students in trouble.
Most likely, the trouble making students weren’t friends with the good students in class.
The offenders may be students who continually bully the rest of the class -- but the class understands that exacting group discipline proves the teacher doesn't care about correcting the real problem. And, protecting the welfare of the class is the supreme duty of the teacher. Doing an extra assignment doesn't make the rest of the class hate the bully. It does make them see the apparent flaw in the honesty of the system. Also, they certainly know they can't make the troublemaker(s) behave.
Punishing a class or a group for the misbehavior of a few will devastate a teacher's reputation and do nothing but cause serious dissension and discord in the classroom. A wise teacher soon learns that students understand the need for good classroom management and control. In fact, they expect it, and they sympathize with a teacher who must deal with the hombres among them.
However, they also know a strong teacher is in charge, a teacher who is fair and reliable when it comes to discipline. Students expect to be challenged and rewarded for good work and good behavior. Don't we all? They resent being accused of aiding something beyond their control.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not for letting spitballs fly and forgetting about what happened to Susie. I want to make it perfectly clear to the class that such behavior will never be tolerated and that I will do everything within my power to find and discipline the knuckleheads. But, I also understand I must improve my classroom management skills to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.
If I am too lazy or too frustrated to discipline the students who deserve it and to better my own shortcomings, I shouldn't teach. It is my job to acquire my students respect and care. Earning respect is self explanatory -- it must be developed each day with fair treatment and complete understanding. And still, teachers will make critical mistakes along the way, but then, when they do, they will receive mercy and forgiveness from their loving students. Why? Because the students trust that the love will be reciprocal.