- August 11, 2018 at 1:11 PM #51363
At the end of the 2016-2017 school year I was exceedingly weary of students forgetting to bring things to class. Grades 7–12 students at our school have lockers for their stuff and move from room to room for their various classes, and the forgetting of books, pencils, paper, etc. was much too frequent. So at the beginning of last year I basically made forgetting stuff a punishable offense. (I won’t go into the details, but we have a discipline slip system for minor offenses such as talking loudly in the hall.)
This rapidly took care of the problem. A couple of students kept getting discipline slips, but they have extraordinary issues with organization and I’m not sure if any punishment could keep them from forgetting things. By the middle of the year I almost felt bad every time I gave someone a discipline slip for forgetting something; it wasn’t really a problem anymore, and everybody makes mistakes sometimes.
So now I’m wondering if I want to keep using this system this year. I don’t like punishing students for occasional minor slip-ups, or continually whacking that one student who needs something other than a punishment to help fix his problem. But I also don’t want things to slide backwards. Any thoughts?
- August 15, 2018 at 3:32 PM #51399
Peter, your story illustrates how a well-executed method to address a problem can work. If it solved the problem, it can be dropped. You needn’t be bound to a system that is no longer needed. Celebrate the growth (not forgetting) and move on to other fruitful work. If the need reveals itself again, it can be re-instituted.
- August 18, 2018 at 11:02 PM #51598
A few years back I read a small article about a sign on the front door of an elite private boys school. The sign said something like this, “Stop! If you are a parent bringing forgotten homework, books, or lunches for your child, please turn around and go home.” It caused me to reflect on the times we’ve allowed students to call home to ask a parent to bring their homework, textbooks, lunch boxes, science materials, etc. Some parents are more willing than others to rush to their child’s aid and it is often those children who forget most often. For my part I’ve tried harder to let students suffer the natural consequences of their forgetfulness but I will admit that at times it is the teacher who suffers more than the student. One area that I decided I could work on is the forgotten lunch. If a first or second grader forgets their lunch they may choose which packet of instant oatmeal they would like for lunch. That eliminated stress on my part because I wasn’t trying to figure out how to get the right kind of food into them (everyone likes to share their snacks) and it mildly “punishes” them for forgetting. And, if they don’t like oatmeal they can skip lunch. It will not harm them for a few hours.
I do agree with Jonas, if you’ve solved the problem for the most part, you can let the consequences go. We all forget sometimes.
- August 19, 2018 at 5:20 PM #51602
I am adding my belated two bits here on your question, Peter, and it is simply that I agree 100% with the thought given that if the consequence has served its purpose and it is no longer a problem, freely and happily drop it! Congratulate them (and yourself) for having moved forward. If I continue to give a consequence for their very occasional forgetfulness, what happens when I forget things too?
Along a similar vein — at one point last year I noted that the number of students “needing” to use the restroom during class time was becoming a problem. My normal policy is that if you went after recess, you may go again without a consequence. They raise four fingers to request permission and I mouth to them the question, “Did you go at recess time?” If no, they may go, but need to stay in five minutes of the next recess. If yes, and it seems to be an appropriate time, they may go — only one child at a time. When it noted that the number of students “needing” to go had increased quite a bit, I merely made a graph with each child’s name on it and if going an extra time, they simply made a tally mark behind their name. That was all. No other consequence. Immediately the numbers decreased. I had also added my name and made my tally marks as needed. At the end of the week(s) we noted how many tally marks total there were. After only 2-3 weeks we simply stopped doing it; the problem had disappeared.
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