Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs
How can we restore order and respect in public schools? NewTalk is hosting a debate.
I suggest forcing parents to attend school with their kids if they don’t want them suspended or expelled.
What’s happening in the schools is merely a reflection of the breakdown of basic civility in our society. The media shares a large portion of the blame, as does permissive parenting. Too many parents today seem more interested in being their kids’ friends rather than acting as authority figures & teaching them right from wrong.
Also, we’ve got administrators who seem to not know how to set sensible discipline policies- they’re either way too lax or way too strict (i.e. “zero tolerance” policies that result in making mountains out of molehills).
Clearly articulate specific expectations for reasonable behavior and then enforce them. It’s not brain surgery. Of course, if you were so bold as to do that, you’d have huge numbers of expelled and suspended students. Parents wouldn’t tolerate THAT for a moment. Administrators can’t tolerate enraged parents. Good luck.
Small enough so that every adult knows the name of every child.
(Even though that makes it harder to field a football team).
More democratic schools (easier to accomplish in a smaller setting).
Involve students in the making and enforcing of rules. Difficult at first — because students aren’t used to it — but ultimately can be transformative.
Very difficult to accomplish much of this, though, with highly transient populations. When kids jump from school to school not sure how you get them to feel any affective connection.
None of this goes all that far unless teachers are strong, passionate about subject and about student learning, demanding, hard-working, with a strong belief in the potential of all students. Those are the teachers who made a difference to me and everyone I know. They don’t have a lot of discipline problems.
It goes beyond the enforcing of the rules. I believe the adults in the building set the tone of the school. If the kids are being told they are the worst class ever, there are unwarranted student searches, constant drug dogs, teachers that yell, etc in that building then the kids are going to continue to be a problem. Add to that these types of schools generally do NOT want the parents involved with their students.
So until the public school people understand that to have a warm and inviting environment and have better behavior from the students and parents they have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Most public school people in my city have no clue how to do this or why this is so important.
Kids want attention. Everything in so many public schools is geared toward repressing or surpressing kids so kids act out in negative ways. But…what if the kids were told by the adults they were wanted, they were “caught” doing something good, were recognized for their good behavior, etc. what do you think would happen in that building over a period of time? I think it would be a wonderful place to attend and learn.
Come on public school teachers and administrators, janitors and cooks…get with the program. Make your schools warm, open and supportive and you will be amazed at the results. Not hard to do…just do it!
Just remember the people in my city have no clue how important what I outlined above is. They do not get it and they need to be gone. That won’t happen.
Oh will someone tell me how it is PE teachers keep getting promoted to principals and then administrators? What the heck do they know about curriculum, leadership, etc. I think this is one of the biggest problems with public ed.
Make education a privilege, not a right. Allow kids to drop out of school if they “really hate” it (but allow them to come back when they find out the outside world is unkind to those with no education).
Allow teachers to get the really disruptive, rude students out of their classes. Make the “alternative” to being in class and respectful unappealing enough.
Smaller class sizes.
Require administrators to actually teach in the classroom. I think too often people get “power” and like to wield that power, and then forget what it’s like to actually be doing the job.
Treat the students with respect. I realize a lot of schools do this, but I also think that requiring kids to carry clear backpacks, walk through metal detectors, be subject to random searches in the name of “preventing another Columbine” is a form of disrespect. Would the faculty like being subject to the same rules? The administrators? (What do I know? Maybe at some schools, they are).
Actually, I think “do as I say, not as I do” on the part of faculty and administrators may be part of the problem. Respect does go two ways. If you’re telling the kids to do one thing, and then are doing the other yourself, of course they’re going to lose respect.
I think though a big part of the problem is societal; doing well in school and being polite to those in authority is seen as “uncool,” at least in the pre-teen/teen world. I don’t know how to make that “cool” again, maybe it never will be. Maybe we’re fighting a losing battle, and, as I said in point 1, need to just stop making school compulsory and expect that we have a large underclass of people who are poorly educated. I don’t know.
tim–you are wise and have obviously confronted the American adolescent and the urban school. Teaching behavior expectations–like teaching algebra, reading or anything else, requires thought and planning and continual attention. Those that think that it is all learned “in the home” are delusional. I think we have all seen instances of classes who shape up when the appropriate person walks in the room, as well as kids we thought we could put anywhere who respond badly to a bad situation.
riki–you also have a clear head on you, except for your thinking that there is a basic behavioral distinction between kids who want to be there, and those that don’t. In middle school they all want to be there–that’s where their friends are. They even have a great puppy-like tendancy to really like being around their teachers. This doesn’t make them an easy bunch, although as a group, they are one of my favorite age groups (third graders being the other–for totally different reasons). They definitely need a lot of reassuring structure–which they will test repeatedly–as well as the ability to be supported in assuming greater responsibility for themselves. Someone who thinks that they can teach them keyboarding without a recognition of all their developmental needs is swimming upstream.
By high school, kids have cars, and there are lots of other distractions in the outside world–so it’s pretty easy to get rid of kids who “don’t want to be there.” In fact, it happens all the time. They are called drop-outs. It doesn’t happen overnight. It occurs at the end of a long process of institutional rejection of who they are and what they can do. Everything in the system has been screaming at them for years: you don’t belong here–you can’t do it!
We have the schools we want. The students behave exactly as we want. We say we want respect ,order, and learning in our schools, but we do just about all that is contrary to achieving that goal.
Achieving such a goal would mean having a set curriculum K-12, set discipinary actions for all students,teachers and administrators.
It would also mean empowering the students to a reasonable degree by giving them a voice and a vote in the process.
Other countries employ these tactics quite successfully.
This is all great insight!
Please feel free to post your thoughts directly in the NewTalk Reader Comments section so that the participants can read and expand upon your comments:
Get rid of the self-esteem-means-never-hearing-anything-negative-about-anything culture. It’s absolutely disrespectful to students to think they can’t see straight through this.
Challenging students, which is what is needed for growth and self-esteem, means students will sometimes fail. All the adults in the school should be prepared to help kids up from this failure, but they should never deny it. Kids learn how to treat other with respect and honesty only when they are treated with such.
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