Thanks. I wasn’t really asking whether there was an increase in misbehavior – I wasn’t thinking there’d be any reason for that to change significantly from one year to the next. But if the level of misbehavior is basically the same, I don’t understand why there’d be a lot more discipline going on, which seems to be the case.The principal’s reply:
I understand that you consider a lot of the discipline to be “processing” rather than punishment, but I don’t think the kids are experiencing it that way. I wouldn’t either, if I were them – if, for example, the principal of the school sent a report home about my behavior, which my parents then had to sign and return. I certainly wouldn’t experience suspension as anything but a punishment.
My concern is that the kids are increasingly seeing the adults at the school (especially the non-classroom-teachers) as their adversaries. I don’t want my kids to fear and distrust the adults at their school. Even if everyone’s a little better behaved, it’s not worth it.
It doesn’t seem like you’re taking into account the way the kids are experiencing the increase in discipline, or the negative atmosphere it’s creating at the school. Do you at least agree that there are downsides to this intensified focus on behavior and discipline?
Mr. Liebig -This response, like the previous one, seems to be responding to something I did not say. No one is suggesting that the school should not address misbehavior when it occurs. It doesn’t follow, though, that a draconian law-enforcement approach to discipline is the answer. There is more than one way to address misbehavior. Some ways are needlessly punitive, and some punishments don’t fit the crime. The school has a choice about how to handle discipline, and I’d like to discuss why it’s making the choice that it’s making, whether that choice has been needlessly extreme, and how that choice is affecting the kids and their experience of school. As a first step, I’d like to find out just how different this year’s approach is from last year’s.
By no means is my objective to scare or cause mistrust from the students I talk with. As I said, the behaviors (I believe) are the same- some of these behaviors, however, are behaviors that should have been worked through in the past and never were. That puts me in the position of having to work through the appropriate expectations when such behaviors do occur - so that the students, as a whole, are safe and respected by others. As I mentioned before, some of the students I have talked with, in the office or outside their classroom door, have never interacted with the principal before and, yes, If this is their first interaction, I do think that can cause some stress and fear (even if my tone is calm and non-threatening). This does not mean, however, that I should not address these concerns with these students. When I walk the hallways at Hoover or work in classrooms or with small groups of students, I do not have the feeling Hoover has a negative atmosphere - nor do the teachers and many of the parents I do see volunteering at school.
Of course the principal herself doesn’t think the atmosphere is negative, just as other principals in our district didn’t see anything wrong with having kids rush through their lunches while bundled up in parkas and snow pants to preserve precious “instructional minutes.” Unsurprisingly, school administrators tend to overestimate people’s satisfaction with their policies. (The Synesi audit, for example, found that only 8% of our administrators think that the district is unresponsive to the needs of the community, while 44% of parents do.)
To be continued.