Reading As A Punishment?

    This past week, I had to get in contact with my son’s teacher for the first time this year.  It all started when my son came home and told me that he had to write a book report as punishment for not behaving while on line in school.  I immediately asked him what he was doing on line and he explained to me that he put his hands on the shoulders of the student in front of him to make like a train.  The first thing that I did was to proceed to explain to him the importance of following the teacher’s directions and not fooling around either on line or in the classroom.

    As the conversation with him went on, however, I started to become concerned at the way that his teacher handled the whole thing and some red flags went up in my mind regarding whether I agreed with the consequences that she had doled out.  It seems that she immediately sent him to the teacher’s lounge to sit with the teacher’s assistant and, when she was ready, handed him a book and told him, “Let’s see how you do writing a book report on a fourth grade book.”  The title of the book that she handed him was The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman.  By the way, don’t think that the title of the book she chose was lost on me either…

    The problem that I had with all of this is that my son is seven years old and in the second grade.  This means that she deliberately gave him a book that she knew he would not be able to comprehend because it is not on his reading level.  As a Literacy Specialist, I know the detrimental impact that forcing a child to read a book that he cannot comprehend can have on his self-esteem.  I just couldn’t comprehend what the teacher’s intent was in assigning such a book to such a young reader.  Did she deliberately set out to humiliate my son?

    I immediately drafted a letter in his notebook that I sent into school the following day.  In the letter I explained that, although my husband and I supported her in giving our son consequences for fooling around while on line, we did not support her giving him an assignment that was designed to humiliate him.  Additionally, I prompted her to send a book that was on a second grade reading level because we would not be making our son complete a report using the previous book.  My husband and I were chomping at the bit to read her response that afternoon.

    When I arrived home on Friday, I immediately read her response and it was, “Okay, I sent another book.”  There was no other explanation or discussion on her part.  At this point, this is just another incident that I do not approve of that has taken place at this school.  It is a private school and we pay a lot of money for both of our sons to go there.  Unfortunately, however, as time goes on we are seeing a lot of things that we do not like and are seriously considering taking our sons out and putting them in another school.  I will keep you guys posted on how things go this year and we will definitely make a decision by the end of the June…

Let’s Discuss:  What do you think about the consequences that my son’s teacher handed out for his fooling around on line?

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  1. I definitely don’t agree with the way she went about this. In my opinion, she just bullied him. If this was his first infraction, I don’t see the reason for such a punishment when just telling him what he’d done wrong would have sufficed. Giving him a book that was outside of his reading level is sending the wrong message. I believe that I would take the finished report in myself so I could speak to the teacher in person.

  2. Karen Hewitt says

    I think this was handled entirely wrong, we are supposed to be increasing a love of reading not turning it in to a punishment. I would bring this teachers methods up to the attention of the principle or school board because they are basically shooting themselves in the foot as far as creating an educational environment.

  3. No I do not agree with what this teacher did! You were right to send a letter, I might have cc’d the principal as well. Teachers like this can ruin a child’s love of learning.

  4. itscindisworld says

    Wow, that is one thing I do NOT miss about my children being young, now that they are grown! I definitely would have responded the way that you did. I always tried to show my children that I backed the teachers, and that we were to show respect for their rules, but I also made sure the teachers and principals KNEW I was not going to just allow them to make irrational decisions for my children.

  5. Rena (An Ordinary Housewife) says

    I’m not sure anything acedemic should be used as “punishment” as children may start to associate homework with punishment. Even so,at the very least she should have selected an age appropriate book and I think I would b having a meeting with the teacher AND the principal.

  6. I can’t wait for my daughter to graduate in 2015! The school system is soooooooo messed up!

  7. Betty Taylor says

    First off, this is a 7 seven old. He does need some punishment, but this punishment seems just plain stupid. Second, a fourth grade level book, what was she thinking? Third, she apparently doesn’t want any real communication with the parents. I would be meeting with the teacher and trying to figure out how she expected this punishment to correct the behavior.

  8. See, now this is where the mom in me advocating for their child would be relentless. What a bunch of baloney. Putting hands on a child in front of you to make a train deserves a, “Hey bud, we keep our hands to ourselves when we’re walking.” This is teacher control OUT of control. It makes me wonder why certain teacher stay in this field. This woman sounds miserable if she’s doling out punishment like this. I would go to the principal and we would sit down and have a little discussion. I am able to say this because I’ve been in a similar position with an absolutely miserable teacher. I’m not a parent who sits by idly and allows this to happen. If it continues, if possible, ask for a transfer to a different teacher. Your child shouldn’t be terrorized in school by a teacher of all people. And who knows how she might be harassing him at school that he doesn’t know to tell you about? Ugh, sorry, but this stuff infuriates me!

    • Amanda McMahon says

      i agree with you. plus some schools encourage “train” type stuff in 1st grade when the kids can all handle it. Either way, punishment should be appropriate so it TEACHES

  9. Katrina @ says

    What??? No way!!! That teacher SUCKS big time. First of all, it would completely rub me wrong that she wrote that small little response to your letter. That was a snub if I ever saw one. It was a “Fine. Whatever. Here’s another book.” kind of an answer. THAT alone would piss me off, big time. Second, she was WAY out of line for “punishing” your seven year old by making him read a book and do a report on it. Umm, hello teacher? Haven’t you heard the term “love of reading” — what she is doing is encouraging your son to HATE reading. Shame on her!! Third, the kid is SEVEN years old…and seven year olds play the choo-choo game with shoulders and lined-up chairs when mom is washing the floor. I know this because I have a seven year old and I swear he just did this the other day (with chairs) I mean, come ON teacher! Don’t you remember what it was like to be seven? Apparently not. Ugh. Oh, and her choice of books? Besides being a 4th grade level and impossible for most seven year olds to read and comprehend, the TITLE of that book was SO deliberate. The “whipping boy” ?? She’s telling your son right there that what he did deserves a whipping, but since she can’t give it to him, here’s a book all about that! And you PAY for this teacher to be in charge of your son? You PAY a tuition? I would throw a fit even if this were public school, but if it were private and I was actually paying a lot of money for my son to go there, you can bet I’d be in that principal’s office that very next day! Request a meeting with the principal and that teacher! It’s not too late. Seriously, I would. Your son is probably on her crap list right now, anyway. She’s probably a bit peeved that you wrote that note to her. Ugh. Some people should NOT be teachers!

  10. I agree with everyone else here, Maria — her assignment was out of line. Regardless of the age level of the book, it’s hard enough to get kids these days to embrace reading in the face of a zillion other choices clamoring for their attention — she should do NOTHING to detract from the love of reading. Yes, consequences warranted. No, consequences that make reading punitive are not. Glad you sent her the letter even though the response back was anemic.

  11. That’s bullshit. Good book though 😛 But how’d she get away with THAT one, especially being as she was in the lounge when she did it? Are all the teacher’s sadistic bastards? I’d tell him no, he doesn’t have to do it and you can explain to her that it’s crap, she had no right to assign it like that and that you’ve explained to him what he should and shouldn’t be doing while in school… wow… just WOW!!

  12. I can see your concern and don’t think she has the proper punishments. I feel sad for her that she thinks setting a child up for failure is the way to get something across. I think it is best to go have a talk with her.

  13. As a former first grade teacher, I really think this was a huge overreaction on her part. And The Whipping Boy is a fourth or fifth grade level book so it is totally inappropriate for a seven year old. I would tell her No, he would not be doing this. Then I would go to the principal. Rules are rules, but that is a rather dramatic way to punish a child for not behaving in line. What about beginning with a warning? “Please keep your hands to yourself.”

  14. Daisy Tremorev says

    Wow… she totally crossed the line! Her behavior is rotten for a teacher.

  15. Reading as punishment sounds so bad.
    I don’t think I ever used that P word in my life.
    You have to be more creative than that.

  16. Dawn Spatulas On Parade says

    Reading is a way to learn and can be fun. Not a punishment.
    She would get a “talking to” from where I’m from. This would not be tolerated at all.

  17. GrandmaBonnie A says

    Honestly I agree totally with you. She went way out of bounds on the punishment. First using reading as a punishment does not fit the circumstances. Say had he been talking during reading period perhaps that punishment would fit. But not the book she selected. I would be making an appointment with the teacher and principle. I wish you the best with this situation.

  18. Oh my gosh! That teacher should be turned in to the principal. Im sadden to the fact that teachers these days treat our children badly. My daughter had a teacher like that. Why be a teacher if you don’t like kids?

  19. Isabel Garcia says

    I really feel the teacher was too harsh with your seven year old boy. A few gentle words about following directions is all that was necessary in this case. It’s best to have a talk with the teacher about this matter.

  20. Mahdi Martin says

    I think it’s absurd logic to punish a child with learning. The kind of person that would make the decisions she did is not someone I’d want teaching or supervising my kid! In the end, I think her punishment is worse than getting slapped with a ruler! I just think it’s creepy.

  21. I think she was out of line for sure. I would have been very upset as well. That’s just unacceptable in my eyes.

  22. When I was in year 3 I had a teacher who liked to take things out on me – she would assign me year 6 books to read while degrading me for my inability to spell. Many years later I finally took a dyslexia a test which provided that while my reading level of comprehension while reading to myself was above average my ability to spell was far below.

    I have never recovered in some ways from what that teacher did to me and the humiliation she put me through in front of the class – sometimes a ‘punishment’ is not simply a punishment..

    Anyway long story short – it would definitely ring alarm bells with me. It seems a lot of just messing about in line as well.

  23. Ugh, we just opted to have our son repeat Kindergarten, though he passed to 1st because his self-esteem is of vital importance to us (and being on the birthday bubble, he’s fine, but a tad behind others that were in his room). I’m not one to go against the teacher usually, I know how challenging the classroom can be, BUT in this case, I’d have red flags galore too, and a meeting w/the teacher.

  24. I would not have my son write the book report. I would send a note back saying so and that if she had any questions, please feel free to contact me.

  25. Ok, I just read the title of your post on Triberr, and now reading your whole post, wow!! Not good. Clearly she should know your child’s reading level and I do believe she did this as a way to humiliate him. Not cool! Give the child something he can do, but that will still be “work” on his part to complete, not something that will go above his head and make him feel small. Not a good teacher’s assistant there!

  26. None of it is acceptable and you handled it the proper way. Seems like there are other ways to handle the situation and using reading as punishment doesn’t seem to be appropriate.

  27. I would place them in another school. That is coming from a private school? Hard to believe and I don’t agree with that punishment at all. That’s not acceptable. You handled it well

  28. If I was seven and my teacher did this to me, I too would run home to my mom. This is just too harsh

  29. You did the right thing. This is no kind of punishment. I would not accept this coming from a private school where I was paying a lot of money. I’m sure there are better ones out there!

  30. Melanie Roberts says

    I remember when I was in grade school, now that is a LONG LONG time ago, I had one teacher that made me write 100 times “I will not run across the playground”… i don’t remember what I did but apparently writing it 100 times took me FOREVER, lot of pain and in the end he looked at it and tossed it in the trash.. I was SOOO mad… Totally feel for you and your son and I would have red flags as well; I really think a meeting with the teacher is in order or maybe even the principal. Hope all will work out well for your son in the end.. you are such a great mom to keep an eye on things like that and catching them early

  31. Rachel @TaoOfPoop says

    I’m a reading specialist too, Maria. And I agree with you completely. I also don’t think that reading a book should EVER be given out as punishment. We need to encourage kids to develop a love of reading, not to feel that reading is something that you do as a consequence for misbehaving. I wanted to read this post when I read the title on Tough Cookie g+ group. Then, I saw that you linked it up to The Sunday Parenting Party. I’m so glad that you did. Perfect post for the link-up! Thank you for sharing it.

  32. Nicole papolio says

    I completely agree with you. I really don’t think reading should be used as a punishment. It should be seen as a positive thing not negative. The teachers response to the situation was completely uncalled for and I do believe it was meant to humiliate. As for there response to your letter they still must not think there reaction/punishment was wrong.

  33. Noor Unnahar says

    It’s bad to read this here . Punishments should be something scary (or whatever else that doesn’t have something to do with important things as writing) I am sorry that it happened .

  34. I support proper discipline in the classroom, but I agree with you that that punishment was just plain wrong. I’m glad you spoke up about it.

  35. I am so sorry to hear about this. I hope that you were able to come to some sort of agreement with the teacher and that all can be settled. Good for you for taking an active part in your child’s education.

  36. Melinda Kuffler Dunne says

    Ugh it is educators like this that caused me to pull my son out of public school. It is amazing to me how grown adults can be so rude, inconsiderate and even bully children. I hope you have some luck trying to recitify the situation.

  37. Shasta Spivey says

    I’m interested in an update on this!

  38. That way over the line and I hate how she uses reading as a punishment. Reading is to be enjoyed not used to punish kids. What kind of awful teacher is this. I would complain to the school.

  39. Reading posts like this one make me all the more grateful that I chose the homeschooling path for our children. It is so sad that people who call themselves educators act like this. First of all, your son is 7. He is a just a little boy and he was playing a train for crying out loud. Little boys are active, they are energetic and they are physical. To say otherwise is to ignore biology. He wasn’t being rude or disrespectful. He was just being a normal little boy. And why would it be so bad to have him have a train while in line, anyway? You are paying to send him to a private school, not a military academy. You would think that a school of higher caliber would be encouraging children to be creative, innovative and imaginative, not suppressing it.

    That all being said, even if he was being disruptive and rude, a book report is not an appropriate punishment at all. In all of my years of teaching, I would never dole out something like that. It is an educator’s job to encourage children, to have them reach their greatest potential, and most importantly, to have them LOVE learning. Reading should be something children enjoy doing, something that inspires their imagination and opens their minds to new adventures and stories, not something that is dreaded and horrible. And to give a little boy such a book is just unprofessional and unethical. I would bring the entire incident up with the school’s administration.

    I look forward to reading how this all turns out. But in my former educator and principal’s opinion, as well as current homeschooling mom, you are 100% in the right for advocating for your son and having this teacher be reprimanded for her inappropriate behavior.

  40. I think the teacher was completely out of line. Whether it be public, or private school you expect the teacher to handle it without demeaning the child and making them feel humiliated. How horrible!!!

  41. its sad that the teacher chose a completely inappropriate book, both title and reading ability to assign to your son. But its more concerning that she chose not to engage in any discussion of why she had done it. I think I might be inclined to follow it up because if that is one of the times you found out about an issue, you would think there are probably other issues that your sons just don’t bother mentioning.
    Thanks for sharing your post on the Sunday Parenting Party i’m pinning your post to our pinterest board.

  42. boy oh boy, you handled it well. I find it hard to fathom that a teacher would see this as appropriate, even if the teacher is very young and/or very inexperienced. You’d think that there would be less of this in private school. I’ve seen other things the way you handle, and I give you much credit, that you know exactly how much assertiveness to demonstrate, and not lose it. And I’m sure you know how to escalate it if the teacher didn’t show a changed attitude. Yikes.

  43. Here I am a grown person trying to get over the fact that I hate reading, all because my parents use to put me in a room, hold supper and make me read for days on end as a punishment. Now that I do want to read as soon as I start reading I stop after the first page and get sleepy. I feel it was like that type of punishment made me resent reading. I really am looking for every way possible to get over this but it is a challenge. Your story is so true. Sincerely, looking for a solution to get past this. Reading should never be used as a punishment.

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