My new school has extraordinarily tight discipline expectations and great follow-through. I knew that consistent expectations and structure are good for kids, but I didn’t really know it until I saw how many kids with awful prior behavior records tried to push the limits, got shut down, and turned into little angels. They know we’ll follow through, so they don’t even bother trying.
If I had any shadow of doubt left about not going easy on kids, it vanished this week with one student. She recently moved to the US and speaks barely a word of English. Pretty quickly, she started breaking rules, but we never knew how to handle it. Did she know that was a rule? Did we think to translate when that was explained? Was that our fault or hers? So we’d take her aside, explain things, and give her a second chance.
And then she’d do something slightly different, and we’d doubt ourselves again and give her another chance.
And then another chance.
And another chance.
When we finally got exasperated, it was probably too late. I sat down with her and her mother to go over all our expectations and make sure everything was clear. She bowed her head and apologized profusely for messing up, and promised me she’d never do it again.
And then she got detention for gum in class, and another detention for gum in the same class the very next day. And then she was caught talking during a test. And then she came to school without uniform. And then she got caught sticking out her tongue and making faces at the teacher whenever he turned his back. (Um, who does that?) Are you getting the picture? She got so many detentions she ended up getting a day of in-school suspension. She’s the ONLY kid at school who has reached that point. (Remember the kid who beat up an adult and locked him in a closet last year? His discipline record this year is nothing compared to hers.)
So, lesson learned. Set rules and stick to them. No matter what. Don’t make excuses for kids. If we’d just treated her like we treat everyone else, I have to imagine she’d be fine now. Instead, we have an uphill battle to get her back under control, and it’s probably our fault for letting her get away with everything in the first place. What a waste.