I am a co-author of Hacking School Discipline and also serve as an administrator in the Facebook group of the same name. I have seen a lot of things in my career as an educator and administrator either in person or posted in social media. What I saw posted in the Hacking School Discipline Facebook Group today shook me to my core. I was scrolling through the feed and could not believe my eyes. I first saw what appeared to be sentences written by a student. Then, I looked closer and realized what was written on the paper: “I am an extremely bad and lazy student.”
We’ve all heard that labeling students can be detrimental. Having students label themselves is even worse. When students start to label themselves, or get labeled by others, they can start to not only believe the label, but live up to the label. A student that believes that they are not a good student or a good person might lose all motivation to try hard in school, and sometimes even in their personal lives.
An educator is someone that should build students up, believe in them, and be a safe person for them. Educators will undoubtedly run into students that challenge them, are different than them, and have social and emotional gaps. We must take students where they are and help them become their best selves. We will never punish or shame a student into being a better student or a better person.
There are so many things wrong with what this student had to endure, but one thing that I would imagine would drive Language Arts teachers crazy is the fact that the student was writing sentences as a punishment. Writing should be something that is seen as a positive experience for students. A chance to express themselves in a poem or reflective essay. A chance for students to make an argument or state their case. A chance for students to report on what they know about a topic. Writing should never be used as a punishment. It teaches students to associate writing with negative experiences, which can have lasting implications.
When times get tough, remember not to take it personally. In the book Hacking School Discipline it talks about how every behavior is a form of communication. We must seek to understand the 'why' behind student behaviors. If students need consequences for their actions, the consequences should be logical and restorative. We need to hold students accountable while also working on empathy and social-emotional skills. Better yet, a proactive approach to discipline with continual relationship building will help build a stronger learner community where students feel valued and welcomed, leading to less behavior problems in the first place.
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