Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My "Rule of 500"

Over at Joanne Jacobs there's a discussion about a kid who was suspended for 3 days for sniffing a Sharpie, after he had used it to color his clothing. I suggested there's was probably more to this story, like the kid is a chronic behavior problem, or at the least, he had taken a Sharpie from the teacher's desk. I also noted that if the fumes had been toxic, and the school had done nothing to stop it, the school would be sued.

Of course the public school bashing crowd over there took exception, so this morning I gave them my "Rule of 500" and I'm interested to see the response. In a nutshell it works like this.

The next time you have a parent complaining about the punishment you gave their little darling, who really wasn't doing anything all that bad, hit them with the Rule of 500.

In the example above I would say, "What do you think this school would be like if ALL 500 kids were taking Sharpies from the teachers' desks, coloring their clothing and then sniffing the fumes? How much learning do you think would go on? IF WE LET YOUR CHILD GET AWAY WITH IT WE HAVE TO LET EVERY CHILD DO IT."

That usually shuts most parents up.


NYC Educator said...

In our school, it's the rule of 4500 in a building designed for 1800. That's a lot of Sharpies.

sandra said...

I supply my child with his own sharpies. From the conduct grades....he rarely does anything wrong, but then again he was truant. In Houston there was a discussion on banning the sale of Sharpies to minors. The smell annoys me, but I do like to "write out loud".

Anonymous said...

I have had students carve their initials on their arms and not get into trouble. You are right about the school being blamed if one thing goes wrong. My son had one of those outlining pens explode in his face. It happened at home, and I'm not sure what he did to cause it or if it was his fault. It seems like the school administrators were only trying to protect themselves. Maybe all of the students had been warned about this behavior ahead of time. By the way, I like your rule of 500.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I like this rule. It's simple and direct, which means it has no hope in hell of being accepted.

But everyone always wants exceptions for their little darling.

Anonymous said...

Of course that begs the question--is shutting parents up the objective?

Mike in Texas said...


When they are trying to undermine you for enforcing discipline in your classroom, absolutely!

devolve said...

Your favorite policy is to extrapolate a hypothetical outcome based on an imaginary situation? That's purely absurd, and a textbook example of a STRAWMAN.

By mental gymnastics like that, one can justify literally anything at all:

"We can't give you a pay raise; what if ALL 500 teachers asked for a pay raise? That could bankrupt the school district."

In this specific incident, you're choosing to disregard the treatment of the marker-sniffing student strictly on faith. You're imagining facts not being asserted by anyone in the story, and then using those imaginary facts to draw your conclusion.

Maybe this shoddy style of thinking is the REAL reason teachers aren't paid very well...

As a public school teacher, you're a government employee. Trying to "shut parents up" is not your prerogative. I doubt you would accept your own attitude from any other government bureaucrat.

I hate to break it to you, but teaching kids responsible behavior means holding them accountable for the consequences their own ACTUAL BEHAVIOR, not the imaginary consequences of 500 hypothetical actors.

Mike in Texas said...


I think you missed the point of my post. It really has nothing to do with holding the child accountable, its about the making the parents understand how discipline in a classroom and school works.

My "Rule of 500" actually began in the classroom. I had a 2nd grader who was a farter. Now everyone farts of course but for this child is what a production. He would make a point of calling attention to himself before doing it, aim his butt in the direction of certain people and let it rip.

His parents didn't see anything wrong with this behavior, not surprising since he had probably learned it from one of them, and had taken exception to the fact that I had punished their child for it.

I pointed out to them he was disrupting the class, and what kind of learning environment would we have if every child was behaving the way he was. I pointed out if I let their child act in that way I would then have to let EVERY child in the room behave that way.

So to recap, I had a 2nd grader who was making a theatrical production about farting, and parents who were attempting to save the little darling from punishment.

Since it had never occurred to them that a class of 25 2nd graders running around farting in each other's faces would not be conducive to learning I would say they needed to be shut up and I was thrilled I had found a way to do it.

Jasmin Loire said...

When I taught college, we had this same rule, only we called it, "No exceptions."

Sick with the flu while your twin brother died and had to be absent so you didn't turn in your lab report? You get a zero. No exceptions.

You'd be amazed how the next time when Mom died and they simultaneously were involved in a car crash, they emailed their lab report in ahead of time and the email contained an apologetic summary of why they wouldn't be in class that day.

Anonymous said...

It would appear as though you were not able to appropriately or effectively handle the farting problem? And involved the parents as back up (or sought some means of punishing them into a change in their assumed behavior of teaching their child to fart loudly in the direction of other stude)? I am guessing that they are annoyed at being made a party to some tempest in a teapot?

Well, what if 500 teachers decided that they should get parents who disagreed with them to shut up. Would that be a good thing?

Mike in Texas said...

Wrong again anonymous. The parents came in to see me b/c I did take care of the situation.

What non-teachers fail to realize is this, many behaviors that seem mostly harmless have to be stopped b/c if one kid can do it then you have to let them all do it. Even a simple thing such as talking in line can become a major disruption to learning.

Anonymous said...

It would appear as though you were not able to appropriately or effectively handle the farting problem?

So how would YOU have handled the problem, ANONYMOUS?

Mister Teacher said...

Anonymous says, "It would appear as though you were not able to appropriately or effectively handle the farting problem?"

Mister Teacher replies, "It would appear as though someone is talking out of their arse??"

Devolve posits, "Maybe this shoddy style of thinking is the REAL reason teachers aren't paid very well..."

Mister Teacher responds, "Weren't you JUST trying to say that one person's actions can't be extrapolated into a general condition for all??? Yet now you're going to slam ALL teachers for something that one person said? Who's the real STRAWMAN here, Scarecrow?"

Anonymous said...

How to handle a child who farts loudly in order to attract attention.

Step One: Quietly pull the child aside and seat him in an appropriate place (like beside the teacher) until a break in what the teacher is doing in order to be able to focus on him (this avoids giving him additional attention).

Step Two: Refocus the class (as this is likely to be needed) and get them back to work.

Step Three: Approach the farter with language such as "Do you know why you are sitting here?" "Do you know why we don't fart in other people's faces?" and "Are you ready to go back to your seat and behave appropriately?"

Step Four: Return the student to working on the work of the class. (It might be prudent to observe to see if the student is having trouble with the assignment).

There is a disturbing trend towards assuming that anyone who disagrees with a methodology that is applied (particularly when it relates to discipline) is a non-teacher. Parents are particularly assumed to be totally ignorant. This tends to breed a resistance to interaction and learning that could be helpful to teachers.

Michael Shirley said...

Anonymous, Mike said that he handled the situation and the parents objected to him handling it. I don't know how he handled it and neither do you. For all you know, he handled it the way you suggested, and the parents thought it was punishment (yes, some parents would believe that).

Anonymous said...

I believe it was Baked Beans who made the specific request as to how I would have handled it. But since this whole conversations sprang from MiT defending the suspension of a (young) kid who was sniffing a non-toxic marker, I rather suspect he might have handled it differently than I would.

Mike in Texas said...

Actually I didn't defend the punishment, I suggested there may be more to the story than the media is saying. I suggested perhaps the child took the marker without permision, which in Texas we call stealing, or is a chronic behavior problem.

I also said that if the fumes HAD been toxic the parents would probably be running to their lawyer's office to file a lawsuit.

Luckily, Sharpies are non-toxic.

The Rule of 500 is not for dealing with students, its for dealing with the "helicopter" parents who can't stand it when there little darling gets punished for behavior they allow or encourage at home.

Mike in Texas said...

I also find it interesting how some automatically assume I was unable to handle the farting child.

I am a 15 year teacher in a profession where 50% quit within their first 5 years. As a science lab teacher who sees over 500 kids a week, I know a thing or two about maintaining discipline.

Anonymous said...

Frustrated parent.... Wow, seems like the heated debate of right and wrong between parents and teachers will go on forever. Shutting parents up is exacately the problem - listening and deciding TOGETHER on an appropriate punishement for that particular child would be best. What did that young child learn out of this - probably confused and now forever labeled in the school system as a problem child with over protective unreasonable parents and sniffing drugs too boot. I think the adults are the disruptive parties in this situation, not the child. If you had 500 students sniffing sharpies - that school needs to fire everyone and start over. Would it be so hard that the punishment fits the crime. Get over your power over OUR CHILDREN! Stop distroying a wonderful child with stupid consequences. Seems like the power trip has gone to the principal and teacher's heads. Comparing college kids with elementary kids - HELLO... need I explain more?? The teachers who are the most difficult to deal with are the NON Parental teachers. I am not a teacher, however, if I behaved as most teachers behaved in my profession - I WOULD BE FIRED!!! Shutting parents up only gets them more defensive and questioning your abilities as a teacher. Thinking you need to look in the job section of your local newspaper - teaching isn't your strong suit!