Saturday, October 04, 2008

With all due respect...

This is my 8th year teaching at this school, and over the years we've gone through all sorts of discipline plans. One year we had a "Caught Being Good" policy, where kids who were caught doing something good got to put their name in a box for a weekly drawing. We had "infractions" (written slips that the parents had to sign) which died out after awhile and then later resurfaced under the new name of "incident reports." We tried Restorative Practices, lunch detentions and of course, the tried and true, "handle as much as you can in the classroom before you call for the principal." We had a discipline copybook, which students had to sign if they did something (talk in class, curse, fight, disrespect a teacher) or if they failed to do something (homework, follow directions). We used the copybook my first year... then we switched to something else... and then we brought it back last year along with weekly notices to parents for students who signed it.

Last year we decided that there was a serious lack of respect in our school. We came up with a schoolwide campaign to reward the good behavior while toughening the consequences for disrespect (hence the lunch detentions and resurrection of the discipline copybook) ... but somehow, the reward portion fell through the cracks. So this year we formed a committee to "recognize respect." I think it's important for the students who are consistently respectful to be rewarded for their behavior. I once read that students who are behaving rarely hear their name spoken in a classroom. Think about it: how many times do you say the name of the student who is talking, calling out, getting out of his seat? The kids who misbehave often get more attention than the ones who do the right thing.

The new schoolwide plan is to reward students whose names aren't in the discipline book. At the end of each month, those students will be announced over the loudspeaker and they can go to the office to receive a certificate and a prize from our principal. Anyone who wins for 3 consecutive months will be invited to an ice cream party. Yesterday we awarded the September prize, but we decided to do it as an assembly... to get the kids excited about it. And for the most part, they were.

The kids who didn't get rewarded? Well... it was a mixed bag as far as reactions went. The younger ones were noticeably disappointed. Some were shocked that they didn't win (although it wasn't a surprise... if they know they signed the discipline book, then they know they weren't eligible). Some of the older ones merely looked bored or indifferent. And one 8th grade girl who didn't win announced very loudly, "Well, MY self-esteem is lower now." This from the girl who was already suspended this year for mouthing off to her homeroom teacher and telling her to "shut up." This girl started in our school last year and was almost expelled for her blatant and repeated disrespect towards students, teachers and school policy. She has some nerve taking away from the students who earned their reward.

It just seems like no matter what we do, we can't motivate everyone to show respect. But on the plus side, there were a good number of students who were rewarded for doing the right thing. And that's a step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

Our principal recognizes different students almost every day on the announcements.

Sometimes it is students he observes, other times it is a class or other group, and sometimes teachers nominate their students. He also spells out what the good behavior is things like taking care of younger students, picking up trash, reporting a problem, volunteering to come to computer tutoring, running the video announcements.

Anonymous said...

can i come to the ice cream party?

Anonymous said...

I think what makes that kind of situation the hardest is that there is such a range in the age at your school. Not that you can change that but maybe if the assemblies were split up into smaller age groups. Sometimes no matter what you do some kids just don't get it.