We’ve all been there. A few students make a poor decision and create a situation that needs to be addressed. The only problem is that you don’t know who did it, or there are so many students involved that it would be improbable to discipline them all. So we take the easy way out...we punish everyone. That way we make sure the individual responsible is held accountable.That will send the right message to the school that you do not let anyone get away with violating policy. If you’re going to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs, right? Here are a few of my favorites. I assure you these are 100% real.
Offense: When the teacher has her back turned, someone shoots a spitball.
Punishment: The entire class has detention unless someone confesses to the offense.
Offense: Students misuse the condiment dispenser making a mess of the area.
Punishment: All condiments are removed from student use.
Offense: A couple of female students use their Ugg boots to conceal phones so they can have them during the day.
Punishment: All Ugg boots are banned because students are not allowed to carry phones.
It happens to adults too…
Offense: Teachers are discovered leaving the school grounds during their duty period to get coffee.
Punishment: All teachers must sign in and out in the main office whenever they leave the grounds.
This practice is what is commonly known as “shotgun discipline.” Rather than go to the source of the problem and address it with them alone, we punish everyone. Why? Maybe because it is easier? Maybe because we want to make sure everyone responsible is punished? I honestly don’t get it.
Let’s take the lunchroom condiment table scenario for example. So someone made a mess. Who is to blame? Not the students. If there had been proper supervision, it would not have happened. By taking away all of the condiments, not only are the kids who used it properly being punished, but the power in the entire situation is being given to those who committed the offense.
How about the teacher situation? So someone left when they weren’t supposed to. Here’s an idea: Take it up with the person who did it. Punishing the entire staff, even with a friendly “reminder email” about school policy being to stay on school grounds during off periods, will fall on deaf ears to the offenders and annoy those who follow the rules.
Here’s an idea: if you do not have the time to properly investigate and find the offender then it probably isn’t worth the trouble. Shotgun discipline is the epitome of laziness. It sends the message to everyone that the person in charge is more interested in making a problem go away than solving it. And what if you can’t solve it? Does that justify potentially punishing innocent people by using a hatchet in place of a scalpel?
These are the types of situations where the educational leadership expert and author Todd Whitaker would say, “What do your best people think?” These are the students, teachers and parents in your school community who are on board with your program. The teachers who support you and your ideas through thick and thin. What would they think about being lumped in with those who rip you in the faculty room? The parents who show up to help at every event: ow would they like being treated the same as the parents complaining on the weekend soccer fields? The students who brighten the halls with their positive attitudes and efforts: why treat them as if they were the problem rather than part of the solution?
The whole idea of “pushing the pendulum” is to take the notion of typical education trends and send them off the tracks. Don’t just let the pendulum continue to swing back and forth waiting for it to head the direction you prefer. Push it. Push it in the direction of what is best for kids.