Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Punishments, Fines and Penalties

From this Yahoo article by Chris Chase comes news that penalties for lateness in the real world do exist. I may keep this one for when kids complain that they were "just going to the bathroom and couldn't make it to class on time" or "their car wouldn't start" or "my sister was late."
"Lance Armstrong and his Astana team were fined for arriving late for the pre-stage registration this morning in Marseille, France. Rules state that riders must show up 20 minutes prior to the start or face a fine of 100 Swiss Francs ($92)."
Of course, the French authorities were not amused:
"They don't care about the fine. We are going to ask the UCI to be tougher."
Which brings up an interesting point for educators. Set your penalty for the 'offense' and stick to it. The temptation is to raise the stakes for repeat offenders leading to the school suspending or expelling for chronic tardiness. This escalation rarely works to your benefit. Instead, keep the punishment wherever it is. The rulebook is your friend.

High Schoolers are in the middle of feeling their way through the transition from "letter-of-the-law" mentality to "deeper meaning of the law" mentality. Anyone who has tried to write or enforce a dress code knows what I'm talking about here!

If the rule and its response aren't specified, the lesson won't be internalized. If the rule isn't followed all the time, don't expect to have an easy time of it on those rare occasions when you try. These kids are not quite ready to understand relativity and fine lines and shades of gray. They want "Yes" or "No", "Breaking the Rule" or not, "I was inside the door when the Bell rang."

Also, don't get all hung up over the enforcement of that clearly-defined rule and response. The kids get the quid pro quo if they know that you are not singling them out. They might not like the punishment, but they'll understand it. Better to say "You knew what was going to happen, don't complain" or sing the theme tune to Baretta.

Whatever you do, don't drop the punishment. If your school says 1 detention for 3 tardies, it shouldn't suddenly try to mitigate that with "restorative justice" or some other touchy-feely garbage just because Johnny has racked up 15 detentions. The adults will feel better but the Johnny won't get much except "I got away with it." Figure out a way for him to "pay off" those 15 detentions - maybe a work crew assignment on Saturday that happens to be equivalent. If you can't find an equivalent then maybe your penalties should be changed -- at the end of the year.

If the school seems to be ignoring your problem student (as mine does) then the "Mad Minute Quiz" is a fine solution. Have them add fractions or solve simple equations for 60 seconds, no retakes allowed. Anyone on the absence list is exempt.

Don't over-react, either. This is not the time to start talking about "three strikes" or suspension or expulsion. If the kid escalates, then you can rise up with him. His screaming and shouting raises the stakes and is a new situation. His loss of control is a new problem and should be treated just like any other episode of screaming and shouting. Just don't try to make that kid understand that THIS time his five-minute tardiness is somehow more important that the last one and deserves more punishment. He won't understand and you'll get nowhere, mostly because this tardy IS NO different.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh:
"One of the excuses floated for that late arrival for Astana was that there was bad traffic in Marseille. The irony of showing up late to a bike race because your car was stuck in traffic is something even Pescheux should find amusing."

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