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No Recess as Punishment?

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: As a teacher, I believe that recess privileges give children a needed break and a chance to interact socially. But I support the use of "staying in at recess" for behavioral problems. I know that some teachers use this to teach responsibility for forgetting a paper from home, forgetting a parent's signature, etc. Can you think of alternative ideas for teaching responsibility, or is "no recess" the most effective?

A: For a child with behavior problems, going outside for recess is especially important. The fresh air and time away from the classroom often helps her focus in the classroom. However, restricting the student by having her stand by the building or stay by the side of the teacher on duty is a good option for punishment, because it gives her a time-out to reflect on her bad behavior and the ensuing consequences.

If the child's problem is forgetting papers at home or failing to get a parent's signature on something, then you could have her write a letter to her parents and ask for help remembering things and getting organized. If forgetting things is a recurring problem and poor work habits are the issue, you could make a schedule with the student. The schedule could include details on where to put completed homework, where the backpack goes each night, and any other helpful information.

Our job as teachers is not to punish children, but rather to help them be successful. Sometimes, we have to go to extraordinary measures to help them learn life skills like organization, but it's worth it if they become responsible adults.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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