A powerful statement made by Joe Bower in a session focused on rethinking “discipline” has resonated with me all weekend…And has made me rethink my own practice and experiences..
“When a student walks in not knowing how to read, we teach them to read… When a student walks in not knowing how to behave or problem solve, we punish them…”
Wow!… My mind was blown. As a preservice teacher, I often feel unequipped with strategies to manage “the trouble makers” or the “challenging behaviour”. Just last week found myself falling back to the management tactics that I experienced moving through the education system, methods that do not reflect who I want to be as an educator, but were ones I was familiar with… I found myself getting frustrated, even angry with a student, not understanding WHY they were being so disruptive…and not knowing HOW to help them….
The timing of this session could not have been more perfect…
How often do we forget that problem solving is a learned skill, but expect our students to have the capacity and resilience to cope with their problems and emotions without being taught the necessary skills…
How often do we observe and react to unwanted behaviour without uncovering the root of the problem? Being reactive instead of proactive?
“Misbehaviour is not the problem, it is a symptom of a larger problem” – Joe Bower
How often do we isolate students from their peers? An act that directly contradicts goals of establishing classroom relationships…
When students are taught to say “I’m sorry” do they mean it? What if we shift the question to “are you okay?”
Do rewards encourage students to think solely of themselves?
Then How? How can I help my “disruptive” students
1. Establish a connection…build a relationship (or find an adult in your school that your student CAN connect with, sometimes it isn’t you… And that’s okay..but don’t stop there!)…show students you care..
2. Listen… Ask questions, and come to a better understanding of the needs of your students…
“Seek to understand before seeking to be understood” – putting the student needs above your own…. Uncover the root cause of the behaviour
3. Work to build community – shifting language from “us and them” to “we”. Work toward creating a dialogue with families that will benefit the student..
4. Role modelling! If we want students to be effective problem solvers and communicators..model effective problem solving and communication
5. Rethink rewards and punishment… What is the purpose? Do rewards and punishment promote learning…. or compliance/fear? Do they create a divide amongst students?
6. Minimize teacher power – education can not be about the teacher exhibiting power over students… You are a tool in a students learning tool kit, a support system and a facilitator…
I feel a shift is needed… A shift geared toward promoting the development of social competencies – problem solving and communication skills, promoting empathy and understanding. Social and Emotional Learning
We need to work WITH students, and provide time and opportunity to develop skills of self awareness, self regulation, problem solving & decision making skills and social responsibility… Skills so unbelievably relevant and applicable to everyday life. ((Check out CASEL))
I know that change won’t come instantly… But I want to make a commitment to working toward creating relationships, to listening and uncovering, to modelling and reflecting… And to working with my students…