Every principal and teacher can move from being seen as a punisher to being seen as a caring educator working to help students. Principals can change from the #1 Punisher to the #1 Problem Solver. To do this, however, you must quit using punishments and begin using consequences for actions. In this manner, the students begin to see how the consequences they face are due to their actions, not the actions of the principal or teacher. The blame begins to shift from that mean principal or that mean teacher to the student - where it rightfully belongs.
William Glasser (1986) saw the difference between punishments and consequences as where the control lies. A punishment leaves the student with no control, while a consequence leaves the student with some control. Thus, using punishments is a method for principals and teachers to keep control but leaves the students without the opportunity to learn and practice self-control.
A simple example of a punishment is to send the student home for three days or out of the room for 30 minutes. Either of these actions leaves the student with no control over getting back into school or the classroom. Conversely, a consequence would be to send the student home or out of the class until they are ready to come back and solve the problem. Either of these actions leaves the student with some control of getting back into school or the classroom.
The use of consequences instead of punishments has no effect on the level of expectations for students or degree of strictness of the principal or teachers. Teachers can be very strict and use consequences, while other teachers can be very lenient, yet use punishments. But as mentioned previously, some teachers become much stricter, or better stated, hold higher expectations with the use of consequences.
Several things happen following the change from punishments to consequences. First, as in the case above, students get back into school and the classroom faster and do not fall as far behind in their academic work. They are more likely to show the desired behavior because it is their choice to return, and they have made a commitment to solve the problem and behave appropriately. They also have a much more positive attitude about the principal or teacher after receiving an obvious natural consequence (you must act appropriately to remain in school and class) than the anger and resentment that follows a punishment.
We educators must realize that with the use of punishments, we are teaching. The fact of the matter is that students do learn from punishments but mostly not what we expect or want. They learn that punishments solve problems. They learn that it is okay to punish children. They learn that when people make mistakes, they deserve to be punished. They learn that schools are places to be punished. They learn that principals and teachers and students are in some kind of battle with each other. They learn that schools are about not getting caught instead of learning from mistakes.
Too many students live in fear in schools today. They do not want to raise their hands or go to the board in fear of making a mistake in front of the others. They live in fear of failing, fear of not being accepted, and fear of being in trouble and receiving punishments. Stopping the use of punishments is the critical step.
Schools should be about learning. Reasoning is what is needed to solve problems, not punishments. Using consequences and teaching are the reasonable things to do. Prisons are full of people who have been punished throughout their lives. Even following the punishment of prison, most return to prison after parole. Obviously, for those students who consistently misbehave, punishments do not work.
Many teachers assume that the punishments they now use work. This is because approximately 80% behave appropriately. The truth is that a teacher can use almost anything, including punishments, and this same 80% will behave appropriately. But, these students also receive little or no punishment. One could logically argue that the fewer the punishments, the better the behavior.
As we will discuss later in this book, the greatest harm with using punishments is the breaking down of positive relationship between adults and students. One does not have to receive many punishments before disliking the punisher. Following dislike for the principal or teacher, the student loses motivation to listen or learn from them. Often things begin to snowball with poor social behavior negatively affecting academic performance and decreased academic performance negatively affecting social behavior. The student gets worse in both.
Another obvious harm to students receiving punishments is the lack of opportunity to meet two of their greatest needs recognition and belonging. Punishments are embarrassing and being kicked out of school or kicked out of class make students feel like they do not belong to the school or classroom. Long after particular problems have occurred, these feelings of low self-worth and not belonging remain.