Friday, July 10, 2015

The Great Discipline Debate Goes On: Coddle or Club Them are not the only choices

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong? | Mother Jones --- Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.

Since I got involved in organized teacher groups 45 years ago, this age-old debate has flared its head. Just read the comments in the recent Restorative Justice piece on Ed Notes: Can Restorative Justice Be the Key to School Discipline?
Under Greene's philosophy, you'd no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You'd talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.
What if it is not about talking out in class but beating the shit out of other kids and creating a climate of fear in your class?

It is clear that a slug school admin that doesn't hold itself accountable is a major problem. But also what about schools overloaded with difficult to manage kids that are so under resourced that they cannot manage to manage. My school had a massive special ed component --  the kids with the most problems with discipline - emotional - were placed in small specEd classes with a teacher and a para - at that time 12-1-1. My principal - who supported teachers 100% - claimed that 60% of her time was spent on a relatively few kids.

There are schools where teachers feel under siege when it comes to discipline and the lack of administration support. But this is also a 2-way street. Teachers must use some judgement in managing their kids. Other than the relatively few socio/psychopath students I had, I was able to reason with kids to get their behavior to work within the bounds of how I ran my classroom - admittedly, fairly liberally - I wanted to build an inviting classroom environment, feeling that having kids want to be there - and with each other - made the rest relatively easy.

But I had my share of kids who could act like hoods - years later I got a call one Thanksgiving from a former student serving 15-life for murder - it could have been from Dannemora, where he did serve some of his time - and he put me on with another former student who told me there were 9 of them from the projects across the street from my school in the same cell block.

I was able to work with most of the kids in this category when they were 12 - I'm not sure what I would do if they were 17. I had to treat the very hard core cases in ways that are not described below --

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong? | Mother Jones

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to borrow the books from the library to see what this approach is all about. It sounds ok if there is enough staff in the classroom. Also, if the teacher/class allowed to be "off task" (as far as the lesson) in order to address the emotional needs of the student. In other words, will the administrators permit this approach. It would also be good to communicate this approach to the parents-sometimes parents who only hear negative about their children "turn off". A more positive approach might gain some buy in from home.


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