Sunday, February 24, 2008

Truth: There're No Consequences

A friend of mine recently decided to quit subbing, because of the general lack of discipline and brattiness of the kids (she is in a different state from me, but I think the problem is more general than just our two states). She complained that the kids don't understand the meaning of "consequences" any more. As a sub, I often share her frustration. I have frequently come to the point where I seriously consider quitting subbing, too. Only my continuing fascination with observing children and their classroom environments keeps me going.

But here is my current diatribe about consequences:

Part of the problem is that there really ARE no consequences any more. Physical discipline is out. In our schools (the schools I sub in), you can't keep kids after school, because most of them get to and from school on buses, which run VERY tight schedules. You can keep them in from recess, but often the kids who need to be kept in are the kids who need the physical activity the most. And, for various reasons, many of the kids actually WANT to stay in for recess. You can't give them extra work, as they aren't able to finish the work that they have. You can't assign them classroom jobs, as they find the jobs more interesting than the work that they need to do. It doesn't matter if you change their seats, it just means they have to shout a bit louder to talk to their friends across the room. You can send them to the office, but there is an unwritten rule that you can only send one or at most two kids to the office - and if you do that, they think that it is your fault for not being able to handle the discipline problems. You can call their parents, but the parents often can't keep the kids under control either.

In my day, shaming kids into behaving worked for some, but nowadays, they just think it is funny to be ignorant - and, in terms of school work, being ignorant has its rewards. If they are ignorant enough, they get sent to a tutor, where they get one-on-one attention and if they play ignorant with the tutor, the tutor will usually give them the answers to all of the questions as they work through them.

I have noticed this with direction-giving, too. Kids will pretty much ignore directions given to the whole class. It is to their advantage to do so. After the directions have been given, all they have to do is get this puzzled look on their faces and say they don't understand, and the teacher will explain the whole thing again for them individually. If they still look confused, the teacher will usually give them an answer or two and will sometimes even restructure the assignment so it is a bit easier.

As far as discipline goes, there are a few things left that work: denying them a coveted privilege, such as inviting someone to eat lunch with them, may work. Putting them in an isolated spot to work can help, if there is such a place in the room or in the hall. But the arsenal for subs is pretty limited. Working for a class reward (such as an extra recess) sometimes works. But often, for me, it feels WRONG to reward them for behavior that should be the norm - just to keep them from behavior that is unacceptable.

I don't blame her for quitting.

No comments:

Post a Comment