Homework and Tests as Punishment for Misbehavior

Question: Is it fair for teachers to use homework or tests as punishment for a class? My son's fourth-grade teacher gives extra homework or a test whenever the class misbehaves. It doesn't seem right for her to punish the whole class instead of targeting the children who are causing the disturbance. Can you help me understand this teacher's reasoning? - Displeased

Answer: Call the school and talk to the teacher to find out her reasons for disciplining the entire class. This will enable you to understand her viewpoint as well as to explain it to your son. Hopefully, she will be able to find less-punitive ways to control her class as time goes on.

Giving tests or assigning homework to control a class is a poor disciplinary technique. It will usually control the behavior of a class for a while because students don't want to do extra work or have to study for a test; however, the troublemakers are likely to misbehave again unless peer pressure forces them to behave. Perhaps the worst thing about assigning homework as punishment is that it sends a mixed message about the purpose of homework. Students might begin to regard regular homework as both unnecessary and a punishment rather than as a way to reinforce what is being learned in the classroom.

Obviously your child's teacher is having difficulty with classroom control. The administration needs to provide her with assistance in this task so that she has alternative methods of managing the students. A mentor teacher can often be very helpful in this regard.

One additional step that you should take is to remind your child that his good behavior in the classroom is important. You should also avoid criticizing the teacher to him.