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Thompson: A Teacher Walks into the Principal's Office

I_know_go_to_the_principals_office_sticker-p217461996605639307qjcl_400 Last week’s must-read blog was "A Teacher Walks Into the Principal’s Office," by Deirdra Grode. On her first day as principal Ms. Grode dealt with a student who "came to me in tears because his teacher had sent him to my office for behaving inappropriately. The student apologized and asked what he could do to make it up to me and the teacher. ... I spoke with him firmly, sent him back to class, and patted myself on the back for a job well done as a new principal. ...

With great confidence, I asked the teacher at the end of the day if the student had been on his best behavior upon his return. The teacher said, ‘No, he came back and acted exactly the same way he was acting before I sent him to you.’

Stunned, I realized the student had manipulated me. I wondered, How routine is this type of production for many students?

The student puts on a performance for the administrator who sends the seemingly 'reformed' student back to class. When he misbehaves again, the teacher has learned that sending the student to the office proves ineffective, so he doesn't bother sending the student again. The administrator, because she doesn't see the student in the office again, thinks that the problem has been resolved."

Also last week, the principal of Ballou High School in D.C. was saying nothing about the forty fire alarms set off this year. A parent explained that students set fires because they are upset with a teacher or don’t want to go to class. So the district’s spokesperson says "we take discipline very seriously," even though the system had just announced with great fanfare its policies to reduce suspensions.

Another principal in Philadelphia is on the hot seat regarding violence against Asians. I can’t judge her, or any other individual, or whether the district is making progress on chronic disorder, but we should not forget the comprehensive report on discipline by the former head of the Police Department’s Integrity and Accountability Office in the wake of teacher having his neck broken by a student. The report concluded that "disciplinary practices portraying a haphazard, poorly executed system that, in many schools, neither prevents nor deals adequately with disruptive and often dangerous student behavior," and that "some teachers and principals have given up on it out of frustration and ‘feelings of futility.’"

... "Schools with successful discipline policies," the investigator said, had strong leaders and a stable staff confident that their decisions would be supported. Teachers were willing to stay after school to attend meetings and visit students' homes, and students believed teachers cared about them.

Schools that exhibited little control were characterized by high teacher and staff turnover, inconsistent enforcement, unwillingness by staff to put in extra time, and an atmosphere of mutual disrespect between students and staff."


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