Personal relationships and positive reinforcement are essential tools in changing student behavior, according to local teachers and parents.
Throughout the year, Education Lab has asked readers to share their experiences with school discipline and their ideas for more effective practices. We published the first batch of reader responses in January. Here are some more recent entries (some have been edited for length and clarity):
How have you seen discipline handled well?
“Love and Logic. When you build relationships with students using empathy, the learning happens. Communicating ‘I care about you too much to let you __’ tells kids, ‘I love you but not your behavior.'”
—Leigh Anne Rohloff, teacher, Mount Vernon
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“My children went to a choice elementary school in Lake Washington School District where the school focuses on social development and not punishment. Behavior issues are addressed and taken very seriously but in a manner that teaches kids to be aware of how their actions affect other students and to understand their feelings on both sides of the conflict.
“The kids that come out of this school are night-and-day different than the kids coming out of the neighborhood schools in the district when it comes to social behavior, leadership skills and compassion for other people.
“How does this school have the time to provide this focus while still meeting all the academic criteria that is standard for all schools in the district? The main reason is they don’t do standardized testing. This frees up a lot of time for teachers to focus on teaching. And there is active parent involvement as well which helps free up the teachers while parents take on some of the tasks that do not require a fully trained and experienced teacher.”
—Glen Buhlmann, parent, Kirkland
“If discipline means application of punishment, then I have never seen it work as planned. If you mean following in the footsteps of the teacher, where learning takes place because of proper and natural pedagogy, then yes. Many true teachers are artistically gifted in making emotional and personal connections, approving and overlooking, and loving the unlovable.”
–Paul Roberts, retired teacher, Elma
How can teachers or administrators minimize disruptions while reducing suspensions?
“Develop a comprehensive value-based rewards system of sorts to encourage students to increasingly do what’s right. Rewards could include gift cards, college tuition credits, etc. Rewards would be a crowd source funded venture of sorts. Seattle colleges, universities and major corporations would collaborate and spearhead development. Contributions would be tax deductible.”
–Herman Tellis, parent, Kent
“Use positive reinforcement, and ask the student to tell you what is upsetting him. If he wants to go talk to someone, have someone there that can deal with an upset child in positive ways.”
–Barbara Wick, grandparent, Montesano
Want even more ideas? People who attended our May 20 event on school discipline wrote theirs down on postcards. We also circulated a similar call-out among teachers at the beginning of the series; their responses are here.