Classroom Management/Reward-Punish

"Great job on figuring out that problem! Way to analyze the data Sarah. And you Nathan! I want you to write me a 500 word essay on why it is important to pay attention and be quiet while class is in session. I'm tired of having to talk to you about this!" Does this seem fair to you? In an ideal world the students would walk into a classroom, and their soft murmurs would come to a halt once the bell rang. They would all take out their paper and pencils, take notes, raise their hand if they had a question or answer, and smile during the entire class period. But this is not fantasy land and we have children coming into our classrooms with all sorts of personalities and issues. A teacher might find it easy to praise their students when they do something good, but what if the students are having a “bad day”? Can you really catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?

When Rewarding By Incentives Goes Bad

Some teachers choose to pass out candy or give special privileges for good behavior or for doing certain tasks, but what if there is not an actual reward other than a “thank you”? Student Awards, Rewards, and Recognition says that you mustn’t use rewards as incentives because it sends this message, “if you do this, then you get this.” This may seem too much like bribing. Bloggers on An Unschooling Life, are not fans of the rewards for learning. They believe that the reward for studying is learning. One of the bloggers who is a homeschooling parent said, “If someone had to bribe me to do something, my first thought would be "It must be unpleasant if you have to bribe me to do it." She continued on to say that her daughter would only read if she was given candy while in school.
Peter Callaghan, a writer for The News Tribune, agrees with the home schooling parent about the damage that incentives create. He mentions a school in Washington that was giving a five week course to better scores on reading, writing, and mathematics for an upcoming standardized test. A $79 free IPod Shuffle was offered to every student that signed up. Only 80 failing students had signed up for the test before the incentive was given. The incentive was enough to fill 270 additional slots. “Kids who goof off shouldn’t receive gifts while kids who try hard get nothing extra. Kids shouldn’t be bribed to try to learn something.”

Punishment As An Incentive

It would be easier to teach a classroom full of children if there were no children misbehaving. According to Student Teacher Advocate, one third of new teachers leave the teaching field within the first 3 years. The teachers questioned said that they spend an

overwhelming amount of time doing other tasks (disciplining included), beyond actual instruction. Forty percent of those teachers surveyed said that they spend more time than expected on disciplining (Miller, Higgins).
Teachers sometimes find punishment to be effective as a classroom behavior management tool, especially as a short term solution. Because punishment tends to rapidly stop problem behaviors, the teacher in turn is positively reinforced for using it (What Every Teacher Should Know About Punishment 2008). Teachers may be tempted to use this technique over and over because of its quick response, but this very sort of punishment can have side effects. Students who are generally punished in this way can overtime develop negative attitudes toward school, can develop an uncomfortable relationship with their teachers, and perhaps feel apprehensive about participating in class activities (What Every Teacher Should Know About Punishment 2008). Discipline and punishment are important parts of rearing children not only at home but in school settings as well.
When people use the word “punish”, it is usually used to describe a negative consequences for a violation. In some schools around the United States punishment can mean physical punishment. Corporal punishment is still allowed in 21 out of 50 states, but is only practiced in 4 of those states; Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee (Farrell). According to C. Farrell, a writer for School Corporal Punishment, paddlings were given in the classroom or right outside the door, but then only the principle had to do the paddling or it was done in front of his or her presence in a private room. Some of the people I spoke to remember being paddled or being hit on the palms with a ruler for horse playing. Educators must be careful and administer punishment with care, especially if it comes in the form of corporal punishment. "Punishments are an expression of violence of the more powerful adult against the weaker child

Alternative Ways Of Punishment

Punishment can take on many forms; it can be a reprimand, or a type of punishment known as response cost. Response cost means that a student can have rewards, or privileges taken away when he or she demonstrates problem behavior even if it is only momentarily (What Every Teacher Should Know About Punishment 2008). An example would be that a student on time-out would not be able to join his or her classmates when it is time for playtime until their time-out was over.
Disciplining does not necessarily mean having the child sit in the corner with a dunce hat on, getting paddled, whacked on the hands, or writing sentences. Experienced teachers will say that remaining calm can diffuse an angry disposition more effectively than responding in an equal tone. One of the teachers that I interviewed, Kristin Gorsuch, a high school math teacher from Isle of Wight County, said that when she has a continually disruptive student, she simply asks them to step outside for a minute until she can go outside and discuss in private what she expects. The point is not to intimidate or belittle

them in front of their peers. Disciplining does not have to be an aggressive act is what she believes.You will see and hear what other teachers believe is a good way of “punishing” a student without it being demeaning or embarrassing. Visit this web site for the videos under “What Would You Do?”


Time changes everything. The material taught in schools, the thoughts on child creativity, and classroom management have all been revised over time. The question as to what is a better way to develop productive adults has perplexed people for ages. Should we pat our children on the back for a mediocre job and hope that next time they do better, or should we whoop them into shape, tell them what we expect and show no mercy since the “real world” won’t show them any? As educators we need to build up our children and young adults, evaluate what the problem really is, if any and make a decision based on each child. There is no cookie cutter solution.