Sunday, September 7, 2008

Discipline Toolbox

So, rumor has it that the teachers in one of our schools have been told that the discipline policy this year is that they are forbidden to send out any of their students from class at any time. For any reason. It has been deemed verboten to ask a student to leave no matter how creatively they conjugate certain Anglo-Saxon normatives and no matter the volume of the oral conjugation. No matter what.


I was told that when teachers spoke up to ask about those extreme behaviors that happen from time to time, they were told 'that's what you all have a toolbox of management ideas for. Unless there is a weapon involved or a student is seriously hurt use something from your toolbox.'


I almost don't know where to start with this one. I am tempted to start with the word "seriously" because it is begging for definition. As in, when you say "seriously hurt," exactly how conscious should the student be? Like, "It seems like he suffered a concussion, but it looked moderate, not serious." Do we quantify the loss of bodily fluids in categories? As in, "I would have sent her out of class but the blood loss was minor, not serious." However, the whole edict is so absurd that I struggle to focus.

Of course the toolbox comment is out of line, too. Obviously, we all have a toolbox for 95% of the behaviors we experience (which is why we don't send out 30 out of 32 students all the time, we only send out 2 of 32 students from time to time, for example) but we need support for those 5% of behaviors that we don't have the time, space, skill, wit, mutant gene, language, super power, Kevlar, or strength to handle.

We cannot, CANNOT, be expected to accurately predict, prevent, or react to 100% of the misbehavior we encounter 100% of the time while simultaneously teaching to a standard that we've written in kid-friendly language and posted on our wall, entertaining, requesting iPods-cellphones-pdas are put away, heterogeneously grouping, monitoring, adjusting, checking for understanding, watching for spitballs, picking up paperclips, handing back assignments, quieting students down for announcements, requesting about the iPods again, handing out a bathroom pass, diagnosing an illness as worthy of a school nurse visit or not, lending pencils, lending paper, collecting assignments, recording student wonderings on chart paper, collecting paper footballs, getting the box fan to blow on the students equally(or rotating equally who gets to sit by the heater), and answering the phone when the office calls.

Regardless, classrooms should never feel like they could even possibly become mere holding pens where the clock slows to a crawl as you pray for the period to end so that the belligerent student you can't send out, but who has successfully destroyed your lesson, your class, and your morale, can finally leave.

Luckily, we are at that beginning-of-the-year infatuation stage where anything is still possible and I think our student conduct contract language on page 66 is just the place to start. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers will be working with this building to fix this problem, and if you'd like, I'll keep you posted on our progress.

In the meantime, it looks like telling you to put cape on your back to school list a few entries ago could come in handy, couldn't it?


Iguana Banana said...

Thank you for a sane answer to a common complaint/concern!

Amber said...

Excellent reflection MC! Although some teachers send students out for behaviors that can be controlled in the classroom, administrators should be giving us support instead of taking away options.

Kimberly's Blog said...

I'm also wondering about our own safety as well as our students. We need to approach this problem using common sense rather than systematic or bureaucratic sense. Thanks for you comments, MC.