Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Steps Forward...Two Steps Back...

A little Paula Abdul? Anyone?? "Opposites Attract"? No? Oh well...

I love to read. I want my students to love to read, but I know that reading can be hard. It's hard to teach too - we can't always tell what's going on in that little head or determine what is the best way to help. I try to encourage my kids to be independent readers, and don't want to over-help, but then again, you don't want to push to hard and make them feel constantly frustrated. I guess in that way, I feel like we're always taking steps forward and back. (I'm trying to tie the song in here, people, it's not easy always coming up with a clever title.)

I try really hard to make sure that my students have something they find WORTH reading too because there is nothing worse than struggling through something hard that you don't care about either. (Believe me, if I didn't care about my job or my students, it would NOT be worth the struggle.) So, I let them read newspapers, magazines, non-fiction, fiction...whatever...just read something!!! With some friends it's working, with others...they still look at me like I'm crazy when it's private reading time. (sigh)

So you can imagine how PISSED I was the other day when the adults on recess duty informed me that my children were going to lose recess for the next week. (Seriously, a WEEK??!? I mean, like they're going to remember what they did wrong a week after it happened...And really? EVERY child? EVERYONE needs to get punished? Because really...when they don't get're punishing ME too. How do you expect them to sit and listen ALL DAY without any time to blow off some steam??? I'm not saying that they don't misbehave, but COME ON!!! You squeeze 80 kids in a tiny gym with nothing to do and only two adults? What did you think was going to happen?)

And it gets better. During the WEEK that they/we are all being punished, they have to bring books with them. So they can read. As punishment. Reading as punishment.

There are so many problems here, I don't even know where to start.

1. Again, a WHOLE WEEK (for everyone) without recess...ridiculous.
2. Reading as a punishment. Dude. Duuuuuude. Why are you doing this to me? To them? How do you think my little strugglers are going to take to finding a good book now?
3. Do you have any idea, recess ladies, how many books we are going to LOSE?? They don't grow on trees, you know.
4. What about the idea of "logical consequences?" Anyone? Anyone? No? Or the kids who really weren't doing anything wrong or even know what happened?

A few of my colleagues felt similarly and tried to approach the recess adults with an alternative solution. One that still allowed children to be punished for whatever happened (I still don't really understand what happened...when I asked, I was told that they were "just bad." Not that they made bad choices, they are just bad. Arg). Any sort of attempt at a dialogue was met with "just do what you're told."

I'm not even going to get into that one. It would just be nice, for once, if all the adults in the building were on the same page, because not everything needs to feel like a battle.


Cassy said...

Who are the "recess adults"? Lunch mothers? Paras? Shouldn't folks who know a little something about discipline be the ones to dole out the consequence?

Reading as punishment stinks.

Barb Smith said...

I assume from your previous posts that appealing to the admin won't work...

I'm tellin' ya, some folks just don't get it.

Amity said...

You are not going to put up with that, are you? Can you buck the system? Can you take your friends outside and do a big reading circle and then let them play? I think you are in an urban area with lack of green space, am I right? Can you have them walk????

This type of thing would cause me to state my favorite phrase: "I'm sorry, that's just unacceptable!"

ChiTown Girl said...

Wow, what a load of crap!!! Who in the hell gave the "recess adults" that kind of power?! Probably the same idiots who gave our assistants the power to decide they didn't want to do lunch duty anymore last year (thus causing us to lose our 20 minute lunch break to sit and babysit our kids!!) How did we both get so lucky to be working for complete morons?

I'm with Ms. Beane. I'm sure you wait all morning for that break, but maybe next week, you could just take them somewhere outside (is that feasible? It's NOT at our school!) and have your own time together. Or, maybe even keep them in the room (so nobody else knows what's happening?) and do something, like "Heads Up, 7 Up," or some other game to blow off steam.

I gotta admit, there's a teeny, tiny part of me that wants to say, "Tough cookies! We don't even get recess!" but I'll resist the urge to do it. ;-)

FidgetyTeach said...

When is recess? Is it after lunch? The adults will actually be punishing themselves! It will be tougher for the adults to keep the kids steadily reading than it would be to give them some freedom. Another example of the punishment not fitting the crime.

Teacher said...

My school does this too. It truly drives me crazy, because those kids who are acting out are the ones who NEED to be out running it off. In the state I'm from and taught in last year, it was illegal (yes, against a new law passed recently) to keep the kids in from recess. They were required to get a certain amount of time for physical activity during all the school day.

An alternative I suggested at my school (which was immediately shot down), that I've seen at other schools, was to require the students to "walk the fence". They were still getting their physical activity, but they weren't doing the activity of their choice. Our lunch and recess time is so chaotic that this would probably never work anyway. It's too bad the admin won't step in and help get something set up from the beginning of the year, so teachers aren't being punished along with their students.

Mrs. Falkenberg said...

Well darn it. I guess this will have to be the week when you study muscles in Science....necessitating a trip outside. Right around, say 10 am? And then in Math, you have to go outside to count the number of leaps, bounds, steps, whatever, from one side of the field to the other!

Gaffapigen said...

If someone pulled a trick like that at my school we'd be calling on the union faster than you can say "functional illiteracy"! (I should mention I live in Denmark)
I can't imagine teaching kids anything after a couple of days of that.

Erica Thomas said...

"It would just be nice, for once, if all the adults in the building were on the same page, because not everything needs to feel like a battle."

Well said, I wish the same for my school.

Sarah Amick said...

I thought that Congress, yes, the United State Congress passed a law last year that said children in elementary school need at least 20 minutes of recess a day? We are no longer allowed to take away recess because of this!
Prior to this my school would take away recess. I took my kids out by myself and let them play, then during their lunch recess time (and my lunch hour) we worked on what we missed earlier.
It was a sacrifice but I felt it was worth the point. And, they stopped doing that sort of discipline with students later. Sometimes some things are worth the stance, and the missed lunch hour.

Dree said...

Having the kids lose recess is bad enough, but asking them to read during that time is even worse. Now they're all going to associate reading with punishment. Way to motivate our already unmotivated learners.

I'm with Ms. Beane. Buck the system and find some creative way around this mess. Good luck!

Crimson Wife said...

If the kids were truly naughty, why not have them do manual labor in lieu of recess? Y'all probably don't have chalkboard erasers in need of clapping any more, but I'm sure there's *SOME* type of physical clean-up that could be done...

Danielle D. said...

First of all I can not believe that the "recess adults" took away recess for a whole week! I have a feeling that form of punishment is going to end up being ineffective. And reading as punishment? Seriously? Punishment has a negative connotation, it is supposed to be bad. So, were going to punish our kids by making them read. That will never reinforce their reading habits. Also, I really think the reasoning "they were just bad," is highly elusive. Do they even know what the kids were doing wrong? But I do have a suggestion to turn this "punishment" into a little more fun. You could include going to the library during this time to promote free choice. That way students feel that they have some control over the situation.

jonathan said...

Group punishment. No clearly defined infraction. A consequence that is almost certainly not approved by your district...

there should be some way to challenge this on at least those three counts.

and that's without mentioning reading being used as punishment.

this should not go forward.

Jonathan jd2718

Ms. Sturr said...

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, punish all children because some of them misbehaved. You need to tell the "Recess Ladies" to write up the ones who misbehaved and you will deal with it. But, losing recess for an entire week is not an option. They can have the kids run rings around the gym if they have to but they must work off their energy. If they can't tell you who it was, then it wasn't that important and you can decide what to do from there. But, to punish the entire class? Boy can you get into a lot of trouble with parents when that happens. Sign me...Learned from Experience.

Unknown said...

Who are the recess police? WOW. So sad. I would arrange for my class to earn recess all week from me. I would take them out on my own at a different time.

Unknown said...

What kills me about this is the notion of reading as a punishment. When I get students in 8th grade, they have had too many experiences like this and they end up believing that reading is something that must be endured.

ASchaps said...

As a retired 30+-year teacher who thoroughly enjoys your blog and still works part-time in the schools, I can't resist asking you one question: Would you consider moving south? Atlanta (read "suburbs") is a wonderful place to work! (Plus parking is a breeze, our "customers" can be less worldly but ever so much more polite, your salary is a bit lower but your $$ will go further, and teacher appreciation week really happens.) You'd have to give up your union, but the life of a teacher down here is fairly sweet! I get thank-you notes from my administration.

Anonymous said...

I too would revolt. I'm so angry for you! Disobey. What are they going to do, fire you? Do whatever you want and then deal with the pointless meeting that will follow and the week it will take for your crappy admin to forget all about it. It's not like they follow up with anything. At the very least, you could give the kids an indoor recess after their new quiet reading time?

aujulie said...

Reading as punishment is about the worst idea I can think of. There are already so many problems with motivating kids to read, and if they think it is something used as punishment, they will definitely not think of it as fun. Not to mention that students need to let out all that energy... they're kids!

allie said...

I have to say that it is ridiculous to take gross motor activities away from children - they NEED to move their bodies around. The reading as punishment is also ridiculous, but the big issue for me (I teach very young children who must move around or I will go crazy) is that it is developmentally inappropriate to not let children get their energy out. Everyone is paying for that.
Fight for your rights, girl.

Lisa said... did it all work out? I can't wait to find out!

Jules said...

argh, so frustrating! I hate when people do things that aren't in the best interests of the kids and their learning experience. i'm sorry you have to deal with such ridiculous situations. :(

traveler hudd said...

I can remember when I was young and in second grade... when my class was being obnoxious or disruptive our 'punishment' was to sit and read silently at our desk for 20 minutes. If anyone disrupted this 20 minutes of silence by talking, our 20 minutes started over. I can't believe, still to this day, teachers would even consider using READING TIME as a punishment. I am so thankful that the correlation between reading and punishment didn't rub off on me and I still enjoy to read...

Earl and Vickie said...

My wife, a school librarian, suggested that they get comic books, joke books, THEIR FAVORITE books to take with them.
I would consider a protest, as in you can make me bring a book, but you can't make me read.......
Clearly, find some way to get them to have some physical activity that is fun. Some of the other ideas were good in that regard.

Lakeland Jo said...

reading as punishment- I am weeping as I read!

Alexa Puckett said...

First of all, small kids need recess. If they are sitting in a classroom all day without a break they are certainly going to get bogged down and not want to participate. I have been taught never to punish students by making them write sentences or read for that matter. If we are punishing our students that way, how will we ever get them to enjoy reading and writing? Also, punishing the class for a whole week seems a little much. I feel for you.

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Unknown said...

I am a school librarian and hold the same philosophy as you, I don't care what you want to read - as long as you understand it and enjoy it, knock yourself out... However, classroom teachers don't agree, they feel that they should only be reading and borrowing chapter books. I hate it and think it discourages kids. You have to get them to LIKE to read first, once they like it THEN assign reading. It's a shame that the kids have to come to the library and be forced to borrow a certain type of book... I always try to give them enough time to gobble up the books they want to before they have to leave!

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