Saturday, May 08, 2010

When Will We Stop Banning Everything?

The principal of a local middle school just banned Silly Bandz. They are those rubber band-like bracelets that take on different shapes when not stretched out. He says;
"These novelty items have created a disturbance on campus and have also become a safety concern in a number of ways." Some kids are putting them around their necks, some are snapping other students with them and others are "using them as projectiles and stingers,"
 Let me just say that I understand what the problem is as I've taken a few of these away from kids. I also understand (but don't agree) with his approach to just ban them. They remind me of Pokemon Cards where the kids were focusing on the cards in school instead of well, school. Those were banned too. Let's see, what else is banned in many schools/classrooms? Cellphones, iPods, all personal electronic devices and even mechanical pencils in many classrooms.

My problem is the BANNING of the items, rather than tending to the behaviors themselves. If we are going to ban every possibly distraction, we're not teaching the students anything. Plus, we now have one more thing to police. It also cowtows to parents who want to challenge individual teachers' authority. By making school rules like this, you absolve teachers of using their judgment.

I say, let them have these things but use them appropriately. Teach them what's expected and ENFORCE THAT! When I take anything away from kids, it's because I've already told them what the expectation is and the student continued to ignore the rule. If a student snaps a rubber band, I take it away and deal with that "violent" behavior.

Banning everything is just a lazy way to avoid having kids accept responsibility for following rules. It honestly frightens me every time I read another article about items being banned.

28 comments:

Steven Barber said...

Banning verses understanding that we live in a new & different world is unfortunately an old approach that is seeing new life...

Aaron Eyler said...

What fascinates me is that the same administrators who "ban" these items will also ridicule a teacher for punishing the whole class for one student acting inappropriately. What these myopic admins don't want to admit is that their action of banning these items only increases the danger hazard when students leave the school grounds. Do they feel as though it "isn't their problem" if kids get hurt using these items off school property? I'd say that they do. If nothing else, they should be threatened with accusations of incompetence and inability to visualize the broader view of education.

I'm sure those same admins will also tout their dedication to developing "lifelong learners". Hypocrites much?

MMolishus said...

Silly Bandz class rule - You can wear them or put them in your mailbox. All I need to do is make eye contact and a subtle turn of my head in the direction of the mailboxes and the Silly Bandz distraction is gone. Logical consequence.

We recently had a CONGA LINE gone wild in 2nd grade! We wondering if we should ban conga lines from recess. Instead, we discussed appropriate conga line behavior (do not conga through the kick ball game, do not insult those who do not want to conga, slow down so people don't fall, etc.) We even considered going out at recess and modeling correct conga line behavior!! If we banned the conga line, how would our 2nd graders ever become functioning adults :)

Tim said...

Or, sometimes a good principal will just ban something because her teachers are clamoring for it. It's not always a tyrannical decision, and sometimes it's a good, appropriate decision, but it's not a good policy for every little thing. Good post--I'm going to forward it to my old school, where a small parent group is interested in banning nose-rings. You might add a "we" to the title.

georgecouros said...

I agree with Tim that sometimes this is not the choice of the principal, but of a staff that is pushing for it. In my role as an administrator, I totally agree that we need to teach kids time and place and how to use these things appropriately. As adults, we often get frustrated when kids are using cellphones in class, so we ban them. When adults whip out their cellphones in a presentation or have their ringer off, we just give dirty looks and rarely say anything.

The difference between these two groups is that we have the chance to teach students when and where it is appropriate to use different items. I totally agree that taking this as an opportunity to teach responsibility is something we really need to do.

Great post!

Lee Kolbert said...

@tim and @georgecouros
I understand principals supporting their teachers however, why not encourage the teachers instead to deal with individual students appropriately and support them that way? The same teachers wouldn't want to see a new rule that impacts them due to the behavior of a few of their peers, right? Thanks for your comments.

@Aaron
"Myopic admins" is a great term. I don't like to judge but it seems a lot of admins don't want to deal with forcing teachers to handle discipline appropriately. That's one reason why we have the Internet firewalls locked down as tightly as we do. Thanks for commenting.

@Steven
You'd think we would have learned the first go 'round. Thanks for your comment.

@mmolishus
The Conga Line is a great analogy. I had a student peg another with a basketball the other day. It never occurred to me to ban basketballs.

Likewise, I have two students in particular, who keep reading in class when they should be listening or doing something else. Perhaps books should be banned, too?

Thanks for your comments!

Lee Kolbert said...

@Tim
Thanks for catching my typo. I fixed it. :)

TimAZ said...

Rather than banning things we need to be teaching our students responsibility. If they know there is a proper time and place to play with or use their stuff, then most will wait. If they know that improper use will result in the loss of their items, then most will use them correctly.

Dr. Christophy said...

When I first read this, I immediately thought of the technological equivalent of banning everything - the blocking software. Instead of banning YouTube and Facebook, etc., why aren't we teaching them to use these sites responsibly? When they leave the campus and go home, there is no block there, and they can get into real trouble.

Lee Kolbert said...

@TimAZ
I agree that most kids will step up and do the right thing. I think it's important to give them that opportunity. Thanks for visiting my blog.

@DrChristophy
Absolutely. This post is really not even about Silly Bandz but about taking the lazy way out and shirking responsibility to teach our kids to handle "stuff" appropriately; whether that means websites or pencils, we have a responsibility to teach, not push away or delay so we can remove our own involvement. Thank you for your comment.

Gerald said...

@Lee, I like that you called it what it is: the lazy way out. I think we often take that route (and I include myself in the "we") both on the banning side, and on the requiring side of things.

There was a conversation earlier today on Twitter about the unintended consequences of requirements like summer reading lists, such as kids who learn not to like reading because they *have* to do it.

When problems occur in a classroom (behavior issues, poor work ethic, distractions), we can address them two ways: with legislation or with inspiration. The first one seems to take less effort, but as soon as we ban or require something, now we're adding an enforcement task to our own to-do list.

Lee Kolbert said...

Hi @Gerald,
I believe we're all guilty of taking that lazy way out, but it's good to reassess every now and then. I was a part of that Twitter conversation and I agree that forcing kids to read can turn them off, but I'm thinking those kids probably don't like to read in the first place. Forcing kids to do things for instructional reasons is sometimes a necessary evil. I think its important for parents to help their kids figure out how to manage their time appropriately so that they can still have fun and time for their personal choices as well as school requirements. Thanks for your comment.

Patrick Larkin, Principal said...

Banning is the default response in too many cases. Instead of modeling higher level critical thinking and differentiation, we are too quick to take the low-levek response and punish everyone.

In the end, the students learn nothing aside from the fact that the school is rigid and lacks sensitivity. How about sitting down with some students and having them help construct a policy or guidelines to deal with some of these issues?

Why is that some teachers do not have issues in their classrooms with such things while others do? Can we show students that we trust them to make mistakes and that we will not overreact when kids act like kids?

The most frustrating thing about talking about hats, cellphones, pokemon vards, elastic bracelets, etc. is that they consume time that we could be using to talk about teaching and learning which is the one thing we cannot afford to ban.

Gordon Lampley said...

My 34 years of experience with over a dozen principals tells me that most are Peter Principle Principals. Great schools exists in spite of poor leadership, not because of good leadership.

Jamie (AKA fiteach) said...

Great post. I often think of this while I am outside supervising the kids during recess... The kids used to play all sorts of imaginative games during their breaks. Granted, once in a while people were accidently hurt, (that can happen anytime!) but the kids were running, playing, having fun. Now we've banned so many games because the kids "could" get hurt (and these pushes often come from the parents of the child who does get hurt, add one more group pressuring for banning). As a supervisor, I am faced with much more bullying, fighting, and other problem behaviours because the kids don't know what else they CAN do anymore! We need to teach our kids appropriate ways of doing things and using things rather than banning them!

Deon said...

They banned cartwheels and handstands at a school where I used to work. This was justified by saying that some children train to do gymnastics and are capable of doing these safely, but other kids who don't learn gymnastics may hurt themselves, so no-one was allowed.

They also tried to ban 'chasings' (tag) because older kids were running around the whole school and might have bumped into some smaller kids whilst running around a blind corner.

That was the final straw when a number of teachers expressed their distaste for this method of dealing with potential problems.

We jumped up and down about it, and democratically banned the banning of things!!!

Piggybacking kids was also banned.

Lee Keller said...

I agree with Lee. It's ignoring an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior so students may grow up to be good citizens on their own, instead of relying for a governing entity to "ban" possession or use of something. It's better to teach. Even if all the "teachers" are calling for a ban instead of taking the opportunity to teach something far reaching and valuable such as better decision making skills or appropriate behavior, leadership is supposed to lead, not follow. What if the teachers asked to ban all curriculum? Hmmmmm.....

Matt said...

As an educator outside of the United States, and as the father of young children about to enter schooling age, I am frequently amazed at American school "culture" whenever I run across posts and comments like this thread.

Here in South Korea, children don't get enough opportunity to play and be just kids because they're too busy studying.

That being said, the kinds of "risk aversion" mentioned are absolutely foreign to my experience... banning cartwheels?

I suspect many of the kinds of things I observe Korean children doing on a regular basis would be banned in many American schools. Oddly enough, Korean children do all right on international educational performance benchmarks.

The whole concept of "helicopter" parenting and schooling is just such an anathema to me.

Although we know better, I think we adults often rationalize away our failure to model our values through what we do in practice, and not just by what we say.

Will anyone be truly surprised when children emulate our behavior?

Sherri said...

I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Sherri

lcrider said...

Silly Bandz have not yet made it to my classroom. I'm wondering if we're living on Mars, as I haven't even heard of them!
Hmm... bracelets banned yet I can remember when we had "smoking doors" (an outside area where teens could smoke freely) in my High School. (And no, I'm not prehistoric! lol)

Katie's Blog said...

I agree that we often take away the opportunity for children to think, judge, and react for themselves. Perhaps it is easier but we lose the chance to teach valuable life lessons along the way...

techamateur said...

Once again I am impressed by your view point. i totally agree. We need to teach children to act responsibly.

Cathy said...

Silly bandz look great. We don't have them in Australia...yet.
Pokemon cards banning was interesting. At one school I worked at students were allowed to bring them to school, but once a trade had been made they had to live with the consequences. It worked really well as there were a list of guidelines for students to follow and aprents were basically told to butt out. Unfortunately another school I worked in just banned the lot as it was 'oo hard' to monitor.
There were no problems at the first school and the fad quickly ran its course anyway.
Can't wait to see when silly bandz arrive in Australia what the result will be. actually they will already be banned as most schools have a school uniform and that generally means no jewellery is allowed to be worn so it won't be an issue here.

byron said...

I agree! Many schools are moving to ban ALL cell phones in school rather than having a procedure for the inappropriate use of cell phones. Social media like Facebook is being banned rather than developing effective uses of the technology to facilitate learning and student interaction.

The next level of banning everything is the zero tolerance policies in place in many schools. A student with aspirin is not the same as a student with weed or speed, but are treated the same in zero tolerance. A student with no history of violence threatening a student in a moment of anger, is NOT the same as a students with a history of violence threatening a student and should not be treated the same. Zero tolerance only removes the responsibility of making decisions by administrators.

Maybe there should be a ban on banning everything!

Stephen C. Veliz said...

Thanks for your excellent post. I think we extend your line of thinking to banning things like Facebook and YouTube. I serve on our District's web content review comittee, which has the responsibility of reviewing new online services/apps and request by teachers to open sites that have already been blocked.

My argument over the course of several meetings was/is that by blocking these sites we are not protecting kids. A large percentage of the kids at my middle school have smart phones, meaning that they have almost constant access to the very things we are attempting to keep them away from.

Further, we are neglecting our responsibility to teach them digital citizenship and responsible use.

It's easier to block/ban things than to teach responsibility.

Aparna said...

I agree with you 100%. Banning things is just an easy way to not allow students to take responsibility for their behavior and consequences. I don't think my kids have ever had Silly Bandz but I recall Pokemon cards being banned too.

shawnee86 said...

I really liked your post. Thanks to @fceblog I had the chance to read you.

As you said banning is not a solution. Is it the easy way out? Maybe. Banning everything starts feeling as a symptom of something going really wrong. We should all take responsibility: teaching how to use/do things, setting clear rules and enforcing them.

I wonder how are kids to learn if they don't make mistakes? Echoing @TimAz, they have to learn to make decisions, to act responsibly, to be respectful. Banning takes that learning opportunity away from them.

Gina Pace said...

Hello Lee,

My name is Gina Pace and I have been given the pleasure of reading and posting to your blog by Professor Strange at the University of South Alabama. I am an Elementary Education major currently enrolled in the EDM 310 class. I could not agree with you more. Rather than dealing with the actual behavior, teachers tend to think it's easier to ban a thing. This causes our students to be sneaky and causes more work for us. We now take away from instructional time because we are now trying to catch a student breaking a rule. I say set ground rules, give reasonable consequences and if a student violates the rules, then take disciplinary action for that student, but don't penalize the entire classroom. Let's teach them to be responsible individuals. We've taken the fun out of school and in turn gained undisciplined and unruly students. What will we think of next; frightening, truly frightening...

You can learn more about me at my blog Gina's Blog I am also including a link to our class blog EDM 310 Class Blog. I will be summarizing my visits to your blog with a post to my blog on June 30. I look forward to hearing from you soon!