In Classroom Discipline, a Soft Approach Is Harder Than It Looks, writes Ruben Brosbe on Bright. A third-grade teacher in New York City, Brosbe doesn’t want to contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline.” But what should he do when a student hits a classmate with a chair, claiming it’s an accident?
I needed to send a message to John (not his real name) that this behavior was not acceptable. I also needed to let his classmate know that I would stand up for his safety. Finally, I wanted to let John know that I cared about him and trusted him (even though he’s very “accident prone”).
I suggested John take a break in our classroom’s “relaxing area,” a message to calm down so we could resolve the issue. This made John feel punished and under attack, so he gave me the middle finger and walked out the door.
A repeat offender, John could have been suspended for one to three days, but Brosbe thought it would “do more harm than good.”
Other approaches — “giving him extra attention and creating an individualized behavior plan” — hadn’t worked.
Teachers are supposed to implement “restorative justice” approaches, Brosbe writes.
A group — likely comprising John, me, some of John’s classmates, and a facilitator (which my school does not have) — would come together to talk through John’s actions. Together with John, we would create a plan to repair the harm.
With behavior like bullying or fighting, this may still result in a suspension. The difference, however, would be an intentional effort to discuss the root cause of John’s behavior and develop a shared plan to reduce future incidents. For example, if John’s behavior flared up during reading lessons, I would be responsible for planning specific supports to deal with his frustrations with this subject.
Brosbe likes the idea. But teachers haven’t been given the training or the support they need to make restorative justice work, he writes. His small school lacks a full-time counselor.
Here’s more from Brosbe’s blog.