Banning…removing…or is there something else better


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It has been a very interesting couple of months. I have been reading about banning cell phones in the classroom and now we are talking about fidget toys. Banning things is not a new concept. Whenever some new craze seems to come along there always seems to be problems associated with it. Whether it was Pokemon cards, bottle flipping or even be blades, it just seems that age old argument of I cannot stop it so I will just ban it comes up. But is this the best thing!


To me it isn’t about should they be in the classroom or not. I mean there are logical arguments on both sides to me it is more about unilateral decisions that we seem to make in education. I mean I get it, as teachers we are in charge, right? but is being that authoritative presence the best for our students? How do you respond to someone or something telling you this is the way it should be? (Does losing our sick days ring a bell :))

Has banning anything ever worked? or has it just created more conflict to deal with down the road? So the question shouldn’t be one side or the other but is there a better answer?

For me there is. I seem to be talking a lot about this but ever since Izzy being in school my eyes have been open to classroom management. When I first started teaching I was very much, thou shalt do what I say! I was the boss, I was in charge and I took a hard line.  I still do for most safety and important matters but now I try another approach.

Dr. Ross Green Talks in his books about collaborative problem-solving.  This is basically, talking to your kids about how you would solve the problem and therefore the next time it occurs you can avoid it. In his books, he often questions what is the point of punishment? For me, it is to not have that behaviour occur in the first place. Dr. Green would agree with me. So if this is the desired effect of punishment then why wouldn’t we involve the students who are directly affected by that punishment.

Classroom management seems to always be a struggle for our classrooms. We seem to have harder students every year. But I’ll tell you this, there is always a reason for those behaviours. There isn’t one student that I would say is a bad kid. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “ummm….how will I make my teachers life a living hell?”  No, there is a cause and effect for their behaviour. The problem is we as educators often don’t take the time to understand what that reason is or we often pre-think what that reason is.

Last month, I asked my students what has made the difference in their change of behaviour. They told me, “You listen!”

This has been a very powerful statement for me. I asked them what they meant by “You listen” they told me you honour our thoughts and opinions. You don’t care if it’s a pencil that we are fighting over or a real fight you listen. This has stuck with me as I ponder these debates over banning or unilaterally deciding things for our students.

Our students deserve a lot more from us. They are not just some people who come to our class but have their own personalities and opinions. We need to think more about what affects them and how it affects them in order for them to understand why we want them to do things. It isn’t that we are giving up our authority (for whatever that is) or that we are giving up control but in fact, we are building relationships and a community.

The more we involve our students in the decision making the more they feel a part of our community. The more they are a part of our community and the less classroom management we will have.

Now, collaborative problem solving is not a magic bullet. It takes work and time but what I know is that banning doesn’t work. Now, I know why we often resort to banning. We are often stressed and bothered by these small things in our classroom but banning will not help the situation. In fact, it can often cause more problems.

So as we head into our week, I hope that we can think about who our kids are and why they behave the way they do. Stop and listen to them and they will surprise you.

Author: MrSoClassroom

I am a grade school Teacher, promoting creativity and exploration in all of my students. My classroom is always in a state of Inquiry.

10 thoughts on “Banning…removing…or is there something else better”

  1. I’m going to be a bit of a Devil’s advocate, and ask why this has to be an issue at all. I think of this article where Stuart Shanker weighs in on these fidget spinners: If we look at the needs of individual students, these spinners may work well for some students and not for others. Maybe for some children, we need to help them understand why these work or don’t work for them. Could this be a time when co-regulation matters the most?


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    1. Hi Aviva thanks for sharing Stuarts thoughts on it. Your point is really my point exactly. However, I think what is happening is that everyone is bringing them in and then therefore causing undo stress in the classroom. This is what always seems to happen. Kids are excited, they bring in something cool, and then teachers get annoyed and we ban. I really do think that co-regulation is what matters most. We need to talk to students about our concerns along with talking about their thoughts. It is a true listening exercise. Now here is the kicker. Before reading Stuart’s work along with many others I don’t know if I would have thought this. Having Izzy struggle so much has made me a better teacher but what about everyone else? How do we help others see the value in self reg and what that means for us as teachers and for our students?


      1. Excellent questions, Jonathan! I think that we have to share some of our thinking and learning with other educators. Maybe this allows us to offer a different perspective. I find that questions can help too. If I see things differently than others, I often ask questions. It’s a way to start a conversation and cause thinking. I think that “thinking time” is important.
        I’m going to offer another thought, unrelated to Self-Reg but instead related to Kindergarten. My teaching partner has taught me a lot this year, but one of the biggest lessons (and one that I need to continue to learn) is the “gift of time.” It’s so easy to react quickly. I do it all the time (e.g., that area isn’t being used, let’s change it up; the room is too noisy, let’s remind children about quiet voices; the play is too loud, so let’s clean up). Often if we wait though — just past the level of comfort — the problems resolve themselves. We need to give time for the excited, the loud, and even the silly … and then comes the calm. Sometimes it can just be hard to give this time, when we’re used to seeing problems and intervening. I wonder if the excitement of a new toy is causing this issue. It kind of reminds me of the excitement that happened when students brought in stuffed animals for our vet. But with a little time, the problems ceased. Do we react too quickly? (A general question here, by the way …)


      2. Yes time is always a wise thing to do for any situation. It gives perspective, it offers chances for everyone to realize and see how it will go.

        I still worry about how we see students. I know it hasn’t been an easy journey for me to change and I occasionally fall back but the impact has been significant. However, I hear colleagues or listen to stories and cringe. It’s tough as a teacher but we need to think more about how or what is impacting our students.

        I sometimes wish change happened faster but you are right it is about sharing and educating. Thanks for your thoughts always appreciate them.


    1. Thanks Sue for your comments. Listening has been the number one shift in my thoughts this year. In fact you may say it has become my one word. Funny part is I thought I always did listen but the reality was I wasn’t.


  2. Such a hot topic at many schools! I teach math at an alternative high school and need students to use their cell phones as calculators or research tools (my calculators tend to disappear by the end of the year!) – however I have some students who are not able to regulate themselves with their devices. As I am typing this I am thing about my grade 11 trade and technology class that have many students coping with major issues at home and who come to class with so much on thier mind that they escape through their devices. For us it is really an individualized plan for each student. These plans are developed with the parent or guardian at home. I have students who have to turn their cell phone into the principal at the beginning of the school day due to their inability to focus if it is in their hands. I have some students who are struggling with depression and need their music (even when it is distracting them from their work and they often spend much of the class staring at it) and I do my best to get them to participate in their learning – but as a staff we know the academics are not the most important and it is more of a focus on a wellness plan. And the majority of students use it appropriately – they can have a cell phone in the classroom and still participate in their learning. Sometimes it is just a few students that create the issues and to make a one size rule to ban for all students is not really fair. It is as you say – we must work with the students to create the solutions and to then have consequences and follow through when the solutions are ignored.


    1. Carolyn thank you so much for your comment and perspective. You are so right and that is my point. The kids need to understand but we also need to think about their needs. Students like us have a lot going on. Difference is we as adults are suppose to know how to deal with it and many of our students do not. Great perspectives in your comments.


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