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A typical classroom punishment is now being called "human rights abuse"...

Is the naughty corner a human rights abuse?

Until two weeks ago, I was a primary school teacher. I’ve used the Naughty Corner many times in my classroom. And apparently, I’ve been abusing some human rights.

In the lead-up to a Behaviour In Australian Schools Summit, experts from the University of South Australia suggest that “suspending or continually excluding children from classrooms could be breaching their fundamental right to an education,” and that sending a child to the corner of a classroom could breach a child’s right to basic “human dignity”.

Woah.

I don’t see anything wrong with teachers using the Naughty Corner, and here’s why.

Students need to see consequences to their actions and see that they are accountable for the way that they behave. One of the concerns expressed was that teachers need to be more accountable for kids’ bad behaviour, not the children. But if no action is taken to show students that what they are doing is wrong, they will keep doing it, and no-one learns anything.

When a student’s behaviour is stopping the rest of the class from learning, I feel it’s totally justified to isolate them, mostly because you are only “excluding” them for a short time.

For example, if there is a kid who won’t stop chatting about what they’re buying at the canteen at lunchtime, and they don’t stop after I’d given them a few warnings, I would make them sit out.

Temporarily excluding a child from class is not shaming them, but giving them a place to think and reflect on what they have done, without any distractions. The other stigma associated with the Naughty Corner is that it’s a shaming strategy. I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

Valentina Todoroska.

And no-one says “Naughty Corner” these days, anyway.

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Teachers who are worried about the negative associations of “Naughty” have instead introduced the “Thinking Mat” which does the same job, but with a different name.

The concept goes like this. A mat is placed somewhere in the classroom, in plain sight of the teacher. If a student is sent to the Thinking Mat, they take with them a timer that is set for a few minutes. Typically around three minutes for a child aged 5-8.

When the timer is up they tell the teacher what they have learned from their behaviour and can then return to the class activity. It stops the student from thinking “I’ve been told to sit out, so I must be naughty”.

For students in higher grades aged 9-12, a “Thinking Corner” is normally used. They are given a short reflection sheet where they are encouraged to think and write about their behaviour.

This is very different to screaming “get to the Naughty Corner, NOW”, drawing everyone’s attention to that particular student and leaving them there until you feel like bringing them back.

Some teachers use rewards systems like table points or sticker charts. Others might use three warnings, a sit out and then a referral to a supervisor.

Like any other behaviour management strategy, the Naughty Corner is just another tool in the teacher’s belt. And teachers are humans, too, with the right to teach every child in their classroom. So excuse me if I’m not calling the International Criminal Court just yet.

This post originally appeared on iVillage.com.au, and is republished here with full permission. 

What do you think about your child’s teacher using the Naughty Corner? Do you use the Naughty Corner on your children? 

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