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Monday, May 24, 2010

Discipline


I'm going to seriously disappoint a bunch of people doing a Google search for something that involves spanking, humiliation, and doms. Sorry, people. Not THAT kind of discipline... At least, not today.

After some thought and conversation with one of our administrators, I've come to some more clarified conclusions.

Our system is broken. We're asked to handle fragile kids in a delicate manner but the only tools we've got to handle them with are clumsy and ill-suited. This is the age of cultural responsiveness and awareness of how our students' lives at home may influence their behavior at school. Be it right or wrong, we are all expected (as teachers) to have a bit of a counselor's and psychologist's role in our students' lives: Figure out WHY they're doing what they're doing, empathize, and then problem solve rather than dismiss and punish.

Fine. If that's the case, the procedures need to reflect that, and right now, they don't. We've got detentions and in- and out-of-school suspensions. I think those are still valid courses of action if teachers show evidence of having followed appropriate procedures to try to handle the situation, but we don't really HAVE a set of procedures to guide us through this sort of... Discipline with love... So to speak... Okay, this is sounding dirty now...

So in the meantime, this is what we've got: Teacher writes up the behavior, sends it to the administrator, and due to bias and limited information provided the administrator often assumes the teacher did not do everything they could to prevent the disruption and that he or she may have even willfully provoked it, so gives no consequence to the student, sends the smug kid back to class, repeat step one ad nauseum. I'm not saying it doesn't happen that teachers behave unprofessionally, but for whatever reason administrators all seem to take the route that we're a bunch of cold-hearted bastards who would like nothing more than to teach empty classrooms.

A reworking of our referral document to include a more detailed opportunity for the teacher to describe what steps they've taken to try to prevent the behavior or what they believe led up to the incident is needed to show that teachers DO care and that they're not just writing the kid up for jollies. It might also give the administrators an insight into just how much we bend over backwards to get our kids to be successful. And in the meantime, if I say a kid has been consistently late to class every single day and I don't see a way to walking their ass to class on time every day, don't come back with "and what is it about that class that is making them WANT to be late? Maybe that teacher should re-examine THAT." That's bullshit. It's not always the teacher's fault. Granted, there is one class my guys go to that is so enormously unpleasant that even I shudder at the thought of walking through the door, but that doesn't apply to all teachers. Sometimes, kids skip because they know they can get away with it, and that's something that is rampant right now. Sometimes, the class isn't going to be amazingly exciting with exploding lab exercises or rap performances... Sometimes, it's just not going to be fun... And kids have to learn to deal with that. I KNOW that many classes could do with some sprucing up, but honestly... At some point we have to place a little responsibility in the hands of the next generation so they know what to do with it when there is no safety net made up of caring adults in their lives.

I love my students so very much and that is why I despair at how we let them graduate with a false, over-inflated sense of their true capabilities, mediocre reading and math skills, and no sense of responsibility of their actions and inactions. It's true that we need to shape up with our instruction, raise our expectations to the point that we're not graduating kids who can't read, diversify our instruction so that they have the chance to expand their skill sets in various areas, but when we do all that we're supposed to do and the kid STILL acts up, or comes late, or skips class then the warm fuzzies need to be a little firmer because they'll never learn that fire is hot until they get burned, and I'd rather they learn that now rather than when they're fired from a job or stuffed in jail and they and no one with any power will be willing to advocate for them.

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