CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Newman and Newman (2007) indicate that children learn through observation and imitations of other’s behavior, (Bandura & Walter, 1963, pg 135). The people who are being observed are called models and this process of learning is called modeling. (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961, pg 136). They also learn their position in society and learn the behaviors associated with those roles, (pg 160). In class, we have seen numerous examples of how children imitate adults (“Toy Stories” Gabrielle Galimberti.) and how they imitate parents and teachers in classrooms (video on children teaching class.) It is certainly important to know/realize that as a teacher ‘all eyes are on you’ at all times and students are constantly watching the teacher’s behavior toward them and other students. They judge the teacher by his/her behavior and frequently seek to duplicate that behavior.

A kind of phenomenon that occurs in elementary schools is the absolute flurry of tattling on other students. The thinking of the student goes something like this: these are the rules, we learn the rules, I have to follow the rules, I will get in trouble and get punished if I don’t follow the rules. Hey, look at that guy! He’s not following the rules! If I have to follow the rules and if I get punished if I don’t, then he better have to too. This reasoning carries onto adult life wherein on jobs, employees time and time again compare ‘the amount of work’ that they have to do to the amount that other guy has to do and then spend endless amount of time complaining if the ‘scales aren’t fair.’ It is possible that students get more upset about another student not getting ‘proper punishment’ than that the other guy got more rewards. Probably, in their minds, they justify the rewards by thinking ‘well, he/she worked to deserve it.’

A lot of time in class is wasted with this kind of circular behavior: student A behaving badly and students B, C, D all reporting on it. We saw in the video tapes of children ‘teaching class’ that they were duplicating efforts of teachers to control behavior in class. Sometimes these efforts can get pretty punitive and extreme.

One of my treatments for ‘bad behavior’ is to have the student come up to the board and write his/her name with a 1 next to it. I explain to the students that for every 1 on the board they owe me 1 minute at recess. If they have really been misbehaving I will increase it to 5 minutes but usually not more than that for elementary ages. Once they have ‘served their time’ and recess is over, I have the students come up one at a time and erase their names off the board and we are now even. If other students start to complain about this somehow being ‘unfair’ I explain that the students ‘served their time for their crimes and we’re done’. Students who misbehave usually know they have and frequently don’t even protest that much; as long as it is fair. Also, effective punishments should not include lectures, threats, recriminations, lots of harsh words and heavy judgmental attitudes. What this procedure does is to address the individual behavior and yet in a public way so that other students see that the bad behavior does not go unpunished; therefore, their perpetual feelings of a ‘need to report’ have been taken care of because the behavior has been dealt with quickly and swiftly by the teacher. My feeling is that all parties in the classroom end up feeling like their needs are met. The guilty party has received an age appropriate punishment that is not too extreme and the classmates get the personal satisfaction of feeling that ‘justice’ has been served.

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