Thursday, November 12, 2009

if X then....

There's been a lot going on in the lands of my sunshines. Fights with each other, fights with parents, fights with administration, fights with the courts... stuff way bigger than physics and geometry and grammar. It's sort of getting me down. Not out, but down. I know you can't undo in six hours what is done in eighteen, but it still is sad watching from the sidelines.

One thing I struggle with in those six hours is natural consequences to actions. I've had a lot of people ask me why don't I give detentions, and my short answer is because they don't work. If they worked, kids probably would have changed their behavior back in middle school or elementary school and never crossed my threshold. The threat of detention works for certain types of kids, but not usually for the ones who actually get the detention. I feel the same way about suspension: I want them here in school, learning, rather than running around town. Suspension works for those kids whose parents would make the days off miserable, but I've had many students tell me they did X so they could get a few days off. Yup. Great.

I'm not saying I don't believe in consequences-- I'm a firm believer in them. I just want them to be natural, and meaningful. So what is the natural consequence to lying to me? I lose respect for you, sure, but how do I translate that into something tangible so you really understand why I'm so hurt by your actions? No wonder we settled on detention and suspension-- it's an easy consequence.

One of my sunshines who earned a suspension for saying rude things to an administrator came in to get make up work today and asked if a letter of apology could cut the suspension in half. I was thrilled that the student initiated this idea, and I hope it works out. Time away to cool down is important, but being able to apologize, sincerely, for your inappropriate actions is massive. Like I said, I'm down but nowhere near out.


Katie said...

As my principal says, consequences should be logical and I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately the necessity for consequences doesn't always yield effective results.

hoyden said...

Do you tell them that you've lost respect for them?

It reminds me of Raife Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire. He starts the year telling them about trust and trust falls. If you let someone fall once, it doesn't matter how many times you catch them, they will never really trust you again. He explains that trust works the same way. He further explains that they are kids, so they will make mistakes, and it is possible for them to gain his trust back -- but it will take time and effort on their part.

Course, you've got to get them to listen and care, but I feel like you have a pretty good relationship with your kids. They might listen and care more than they let on.