Writing As Punishment – A Rant

Mike Swickey over at Papernotes writes about his pet peeve:


"The scenario is usually something like this: Johnny or Sally is late for class
(or some such thing), and the teacher tells them that their punishment will be,
"a writing assignment." Ugh. In the mildest form it is usually the old, "I WILL
NOT ________" 100 times on the board or on paper. This is bad enough as it makes
the connection between pen and paper and punishment. However, at its worst, the
"punishment" is an actual writing assignment. Maybe it’s an essay on why it’s
important to not be late. Maybe it’s a report on anything, as long as it is X
number of words. Sometimes it is a two-page biographical sketch of the student’s
choice. (In and of itself – an excellent educational activity!) But as
punishment? The message is clear. If you, Johnny or Sally, do something wrong
you may very well be forced to write – and we know how much you hate to write!
(Or if you don’t hate to write, you should!).."

Paper Notes


24 thoughts on “Writing As Punishment – A Rant

  1. I remember sitting in “JUG” at my Jesuit High School. I think it stood for Justice Under God, a Catholic detention of sorts. 😉 We had to write “Correction Discipline” hundreds of times before being let out. It stuck w/ me. 😉

  2. We had to write the part of the student handbook that we were in violation of when I was in high school detention. It was never the same part for me, though;)

  3. While I agree with the article that writing shouldn’t be used as punishment, I would’ve liked it better had some ideas been given for reasonable punishments that teachers could use in place of writing. Sometimes teachers don’t have the creativity to think of other types of effective punishment (myself included…I have run out of effective ideas and don’t want to resort to writing as punishment). Writing seems to be the default mode for a lot of teachers.

    I say I’d like to hear reasonable punishment ideas because sometimes if you have an entire class acting up, it is not reasonable to call ten or so parents a night to say, “You’re child was acting up in class.” I already spend ten hours a day minimum at my school which leaves me very little time to go home and unwind before the next day starts. I have a lot of parents that really don’t care while others have no control over their kid (because the kid runs the house, not the parent), so for some students, calling the parent doesn’t even help.

  4. Personally, I believe all of us turn too quickly to punishment to solve behavior problems when other approaches might work better. But I concede that there may be times when punishment is necessary. At those time, when punishment is administered I very strongly believe that the “punishment should fit the crime.” I absolutely DO NOT consider having students write an essay in response to a behavior problem to be an appropriate punishment.

    Lynne – I am not a teacher, so I can barely begin to understand or appreciate the challenge of maintaining discipline in a classroom. However, as a parent concerned with the use and overuse of punishment, my thinking has been radically affected by the works of Alfie Kohn, especially his book _Punished by Rewards_. He takes a very critical look at, and offers alternatives to, the popular methods of punishment and reward used in our culture. You may find some food for thought in his books.

  5. Hrm I googled writing punishments and came up with this…I am working as of this moment, a writing assingment. This teacher has gone on a power trip and is completly abusing his power. He can’t even read and he is teaching our literature class (Don’t get me started on the coaches as teachers thing) anyways. He gives out about 40 of these sheets that you have to write and it says exactly:

    I will refrain from disrupting my class. I know that disrupting my class is against Mr. XXXX policy. I know that disrupting my class is not right and could hinder the sudent’s ability to do their best work. I apologize and will not do it again.” (Teacher’s name is hidden(Duh!?))

    That may not look like much typed, but write that 30 times (then another 15 for each day you don’t turn it in after the aloted 24 hours+detention) And you will see that this is completly idiotic. You know what I did? I asked for a pencil. HEAVEN FORBID! I don’t even know what this website is about or if I even stayed on topic, but I needed to vent. So lucky you 😉 ~Shad3

  6. I agree with RAE, some teachers don’t realize what they are assigning. It’s like a game to them… see how difficult they can make an assignment for the students. I received the worst assignment of my life my junior year in high school. I did have a tardiness problem, I’ll admit that. Ms. Rodgers class was all the way accross the school from my previous class, it was truely tough to make it on time with the crowds in the halls and stopping at my locker. Well, after 3 verbal warnings about my tardiness I received my first written punishment:

    As a student I am expected to be on time for school everyday and use my time for study. When I am tardy I not only miss valuable classtime but I disrupt my fellow classmates classtime. Miss Rodgers has warned me several times that repeated tardiness shall be considered a minor infraction of school rules. She has also explained that I may be kept after school, given work projects, receive corporal punishment or have parent notification made. Miss Rodgers and I hope that writing this punishment twenty five times will serve as a valuable reminder as to the importance of obeying school rules. I assure Miss Rodgers that I will have this punishment written in my best penmanship, signed by a parent and on her desk first thing Monday morning.

    That was my fate, the first offense took me over 4 hours of hard non stop writing. I say first offense because I received yet another assignment for yet another tardy. This time, same punishment only fifty times over the weekend. In all it took me almost 10 hours and 12 pages of writing, front and back. Fortunetly the school year was almost over and I escaped without further punishment. I look back at that assignment and wonder what did I really gain from it besides a deep disrespect for Ms. Rodgers.

  7. I see nothing wrong with using writing assignments as a punishment. It is used in the UK in some private schools. State schools have banned it, along with everything else.

    As a teenager, I was made to go to a saturday detention where I had to copy out one line for ever and ever. 3 hours in the morning, lunch break and 3 hours in the afternoon. You wouldn’t want to do that again the following week would you ?

  8. Having attended an Irish Catholic school in the 70’s, lines were rarely used as a punishment – most teachers preferring the more traditional use of the strap or sometimes the cane. However, I do have painful memories of my French teacher who had a particular fondness for giving lines, and other written punishments. In fairness to her, she was young, had only started teaching and needed to establish herself in terms of being able to control her classes. Because French was very much my weak subject and because I tended to be a bit of a smart alec, she took a particular delight in punishing me in class. And when she did have occasion to give me a written punishment, she made sure I would spend several hours writing for her after school. Looking back on it now, I suppose I should thank my French teacher for teaching me a valuable lesson on how to have respect for my teachers and the school rules.

  9. I agree with Mckenzie that there is nothing wrong with using writing as punishment. This is particularly true when other measures such as detention have been tried and have not worked. Writing punishment is extremely effective and there really are no alternatives that are as effective. Indeed, in my judgment, writing can even be more effective that traditional corporal punishment. If writing punishment were more common, there would be a lot less disorder and a lot more discipline in schools.

  10. I dont agree with lines. I am in year 10 and was given a 2 hr after school detention last week. For the whole 2 hrs i had to write the same line over and over again. My hand and wrist was hurting, and it was soo boring.

    Surely something else would have been better?

  11. I had a principal in the eighth grade who subjected miscreants to sitting in the auditorium and listening to a cassette of him reading the rules and regulations of the school. I spent the time spacing out and figuring out ways to alter the tape so it would start with “This is Principal Michael Rochin” and then go into “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror.

  12. What other alternatives are there besides, taking away favorite toys, trips, going outside, time out, and cleaning the house?
    Society today is so confused, always disagreeing with damn near every punishment. Many people say such a punishment will teach the child not to like writing for example, however it will teach the child. Look at it this way if not writing, would you prefer a good oh fashion ass whooping?

    “Writing it is”

    By the way I have tried many punishments and have not yet found a winner.

  13. Honestly I don’t think that writing assignments can be so wrong. Often there aren’t any other ideas for punishment. If the teacher knows how to punish, I’m pretty sure that no one who got that punishment want to be a part of this again. So he’ll maybe stops his bad behaviour and become a friendly student. In my opinion a good example is the detention an Saturtday where one needs to write one sentence over and over again. Six hours writing the same sentence with only one lunch break no one would want to do twice. So why shouldn’t this punishment be so wrong? Of course, for the students who have to do it it’s very annoying (luckily I never had to do something like this) but for education it seems really useful to me.

  14. I think, there is a difference between writing lines and getting an essay as punishment. I do not see the sence of writing lines. It is very boring and students learn nothing from it. I also think, writing lines do doesn`t prevent students from forgetting homework or from not doing them the next time or from something they got the the punishment for. But I also see no better solution how students could be punished. And I think nobody would do his or her homework if there is no punishing for not doing them! So a kind of punishment is necessary.
    Punishment should not be the same as harassment. So writing lines is senceless as punishment. But I think, writing an essay about the topic or about the topic of the lesson makes sence. The student does learn something. For example: A student, who disrupts the classroom by conversations with other students should write a summary of the lesson. This punishment costs time for him and he learns something. And because it costs time he will think the next time about disrupt the lesson.

  15. We think it is the wrong way if teachers give pupils things to write down as a punishment. The pupils write down the sentences or the rules , but do they really think about these things?
    No, they do not!
    They don´t care about writing something down and they don´t see the things they have done wrong. By the way the pupils prefer writing the school rules down or things like that, because often the teachers say that it is okay and don´t tell their parents about the punishment.
    Also if the parents have to sign the written punishment up, the pupils don´t care about this. They can lie to their parents and tell them that the teachers made a wrong decision with punishing the pupil. We think it is an easy way for the teachers to handle a class, because often there are lots of kids that can´t be controlled by the teacher. Just like in our old school. We had a teacher who wasn´t able to get control over the class. He wrote down every pupil who talked in the lesson and that ones who had disturbed the lessons three times, had to write. The pupils never wrote down anything, because the teacher didn´t ask for the things written down and so the next day started like the other one had finished: with a loud and disturbing class.

    All in all we must say, giving pupils writing as an punishment is an easy way to cope wih the pupils but it isn´t efficient. The pupils learn nothing about how to behave in school because the things they have written down, often have nothing in common with their bad behaviour.

  16. I think writing assignments are a senseless punishment because writing the same sentence a hundred of times is a waste of time. Pupils don´t regret their mistakes if they´re forced to write always one and the same things down and they even don´t think about what they did wrong. I think punishments should fit to the pupil and deal with his mistake or the rule he broke Every pupil should be forced to think everything over and get the chance to be better next time. It´s a shame that many teachers aren´t able to think of new punishments ho cater to the individual defencies of the “wrongdoer” and simply let them do these stupid writing assignments. THAT´S OUR OPINION.
    yours kevin and giulia.

  17. My main objective to the writing is the uselessness, the pure pointlessness of the exercise. Wouldn’t it be better if the students were made to be helpful in some way? Painting a wall, or cleaning a room… something like that.

  18. My ex-husband made my 8 year old write 11 pages of lines this past week end during his weekend visitation. In my opinion it was excessive, near abuse. Any thoughts?

  19. People are missing the whole point. I don’t think anyone ever suggested that the setting of, or the writing of, lines was meant to be educational in some way.

    It is meant as a punishment. Punishment must mean deprival. By telling a child to sit for two hours writing lines you are not attempting to re-educate. You are telling that child that there is a forfeit. “Bad behaviour is unacceptable. These are the rules. Like them or not. You are intelligent enough to read and understand them. If you break them you get two hours detention, thus depriving you of your free time, and will write lines. If you don’t like this, don’t break the rules. Full Stop”.

    I honestly don’t get what it is that people see is cruel. For those who don’t like “writing” as a punishment, I say “why not ?”. If nothing else it might strengthen your handwriting. And if, as part of the punishment, it bores the miscreant, even making their wrists ache, then so be it. Don’t break the rules. You know what they are. Why is this so difficult.

    It is far too easy to criticise, but very few of you ever suggest a better alternative.

    Lines are wonderful punishment tools, and the sooner they are re-introduced, the better.

  20. @Shad3 Shade
    So you not only disrupted, but you also came to class unprepared. See how that goes at McDonalds when you don’t bring your wallet. Or better yet at the airport when you “forgot” your passport at home! If you took the assignment into consideration and actually thought about why you were there the learning in school may have done a bit of good.

  21. I would prefer to use the word reformation in place of”punishment”. Students are ultimately little creatures without the exposure and understanding of the functioning of this complex world. Punishments are for criminals, not for school-children of whatever age. They need gentle but firm guidance. Love, warmth and kindness can work wonders if used appropriately. Hasn’t dear Lord
    taught us this? Thousands of students, I happen to handle in the last 20 odd years, I don’t remember a single child who was so bad that had to be written off.
    Let us firmly resolve to walk the path shown by great teachers like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and Gandhi.

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