My vice-principal sent out an e-mail to all the staff today to address the issue of discipline in our school. I think her words say it all:
There are lots of rules, but sometimes we are unsure of how to handle certain situations, like a student constantly arguing or challenging you in class. Our first response should be to question ourselves why the student is doing what they are doing as, often a student does this to avoid doing the work they need to do, they want to get back at you for something they thought was unfair, or they want to get your attention, or the attention of their peers. We know this, so why is it so hard to be objective?
If a student is looking to avoid doing what you want them to do, chances are they will do what it takes to get out of it, resulting in them being suspended from class and therefore avoiding what they need to do. This consequence also allows you to regroup. I’m not recommending mass suspension as there is a considerable amount of follow up involved, but sometimes it’s the only way out for the student and yourself.
We have a wonderful, caring staff that only wants to do their best and in turn have the students succeed. Still, we get worn down by the pressures and stresses of the job of trying to get these students to succeed. The best way I know to relieve the pressure is to work together and share information.
For example, I had a staff member email me the other day that a certain junior high student was seen in the elementary end and had no right to be there. I replied that she could address this student and remind him where he should be, and direct him to go there, politely, of course. Now if that student doesn’t respond in kind, I would expect the staff member to inform the office. Another example, is a student constantly wearing his hat in school. Now, while we may disagree with the rule, we still need to provide a united front. We all have different ways of addressing these issues, big and small with the students, but we all still need to address them. That same hat wearing student told me the other day that he decided to leave his hat in his locker because too many people were asking him about it and reminding him to put it away. Of course, today, I had to keep it in my office for the day. :)
Yesterday and today, I had students in my office asking me these two questions: why are the teachers always yelling at us? And why don’t we get to do anything fun anymore? Two students were actually in tears because they thought their teacher didn’t like them anymore.
What I’m trying to say, let’s work together and try not to get too upset when a student, a child, really, doesn’t always do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it. If we have a procedure with consequences in place, they will comply eventually. If our procedure includes alternatives for students who have trouble linking a consequence with an action, we just need to reteach, practice, and positively reinforce. If we get too upset with them, we only make ourselves and them feel bad, and it’s bad enough when the sun only shines once a week. :)
We all have our own innate response to stress and frustration. For some, it’s yelling. For me, it’s escaping. I needed to hear this because sometimes when I have a class that becomes uninterested and unruly, I tend to withdraw and not care anymore. It’s a lot easier to do than to fight tooth and nail to get them to do any work. I used to think – if they’re making the effort in class, then I”ll make the effort to help them succeed, but if they’re wasting time and not even trying, why should I try for them?
As I’m typing this, I am reminded of how God works. Here I am – totally conditional in my help and grace – but He is unconditional in his love, patience, and mercy. So… since I have chosen to follow Him, should I not exemplify this in my teaching as well? Should I not strive to reflect his heart through my words and actions? No matter how strenuous or debilitating the day gets, He never fails me. And that is reason and affirmation enough to why I should and will do likewise for my students.