I want THAT kid suspended.
I have a rule of thumb I use for blogging. If something is playing on repeat in my mind all weekend, I often feel it’s a topic worth exploring. This weekend, I am having trouble letting go of a message I read this week. The note was not written to me, but was written about our school. It suggested we are not doing enough when children misbehave, and wanted punishment for THAT kid. And I get it. Especially as a parent. I have two boys, and if one of them was picked on at school I would want to make sure it didn’t happen again. I too may wonder what the follow up would be for THAT kid. Really, my need would be for safety. I want to send my kids to school and know they are safe from harm. I know deep down that is also the desire of parents when they ask about THAT kid.
I guess the part that I keep replaying is the suggestion that ‘nothing was done’. Here’s where it gets a little messy. As a principal, I cannot tell you about THAT kid. Why? Because he isn’t your child, and those are conversations that I have with his/her parents if he/she is lucky enough to live with them.
And I hear you. You want THAT kid suspended. But suspensions are a funny thing. (Besides the fact that they give kids time off school) We want suspensions for other people’s children but never for our own. If it was our kid, we would want to find out why they did what they did, how they could fix the situation, how they could repair the relationships and how they could learn from the conflict so they could do better next time. In my seven years as an administrator, no one has ever called me and asked to have their own child suspended. We want consequences for our children. But punishment? That’s what I often hear as a wish for other people’s children.
While I can’t speak about a specific child, I can speak in general terms about THAT kid.
…did not have breakfast because there was not enough food
…does not get to eat dinner as a family
…no longer lives with both mom and dad (and sometimes neither)
…has experienced trauma in childhood greater than I have experienced in a lifetime
…has a story that would break your heart
…wishes desperately to have friends like your child does
So, while I understand that sometimes, it may look like the school is doing nothing, I can tell you that these are some of the ways our staff at Harry Hooge are trying to make a positive difference for THAT kid.
In the past three years we have:
…increased counselor time
…added a full time youth worker
…offered friendship groups, community connections, and specialized programs based on interests such as Equestrian lessons
…partnered with the United Way to offer after school classes (free for those in need)
…began a Monday-Friday breakfast program
…distributed free lunches each day to those in need
…partnered with the Starfish Backpack program to send home food for the weekend
…created hampers for families in need
…connected many families with parenting courses, mental health and community services
…assigned relevant consequences to help children learn (ie.. make a mess? Consequence is cleaning up. Conflicts on the playground? Consequence is a new job during that time such as working around the school, helping younger kids, etc)
…implemented a school wide growth plan where adults and students are learning about self regulation skills
…embedded the Zones of Regulation into our classrooms where children can identify the zone they are in and use their tools to self regulate and return to the green zone
…built Social Emotional Learning into everything we do
…helped children reflect and fill in problem solving sheets identifying what went wrong
… taught WITS as a conflict resolution skill: (Walk Away, Ignore It, Talk it Out or Seek Help)
…spent time each day facilitating restorative conversations where children can learn the impact of their actions, recognize who was hurt and learn from their mistakes.
…offered intramural sports, clubs, and teams to help kids get hooked on school
…brought in community groups and presenters to address issues such as kindness, conflict, safety, friendship skills and healthy relationships.
After a conflict, our goal is always to have both children return strengthened. Why? Because we know that punishment models teach shame. When kids develop a sense of shame, they feel worse about who they are. And one thing we know for sure, is that when kids are hurting, they hurt other kids.
So yes, I hear you. I know you want something done. And often I hear you – you want THAT kid suspended. But what I think you mean, is that you want THAT child to learn how to behave and you want to know our schools are safe. I do too. And I am certain that when THAT child feels as loved and cared for as our children do, he / she will behave in a positive way. A suspension, giving a child a few days off school will not fix a child who is struggling. Instead, it takes a village – and when we as a community rally around THAT kid and help him/her find his/her strengths, only then will we help THAT kid find their smile, find their sense of worth and start behaving positively at school.