After giving examples of how her school navigates the most essential areas of its schoolwide discipline plan, Boyd takes a chapter here to discuss her “philosophy of discipline.” Here we get a broader view into the thinking behind the policies, and it’s a welcome digression lest the reader start to think that her entire vision revolves around creating and enforcing consequences.
Boyd’s insistence on enforcing policies with genuine concern, especially for the students most in need, is a key point behind what could otherwise become a robotic and impersonalized system of doling out consequences.
Boyd’s system also hinges on the idea that we must be realistic and we must not only expect young people to engage in unproductive behaviors but learn to predict where and when those unproductive behaviors will take place so as to be prepared for them. A quick note here–Boyd and Ross Greene both agree on the fact that we should expect and prepare for unproductive (Greene would say “maladaptive”) behaviors, but the language each one uses underscores a key difference in why they think these behaviors occur. Boyd’s “kids are kids” line suggests that unproductive behavior is simply a part of being a kid. Greene’s “kids do well when they can” asserts that maladaptive behavior is not “natural” but rather a direct result of students encountering situations for which they do not have the skills to successfully navigate.
This is by far the most unconventional and probably most controversial thing Boyd writes in her book. Almost every classroom management book you read (and I’ve pretty much read them all) tells teachers to avoid power struggles at all costs. And that makes sense–adults have way more to lose in a power struggle than students do, and since students have much more trouble regulating impulses and emotions, they are much more likely to do something “crazy” as the power struggle escalates (hit a teacher, run out of the school, curse out a teacher, etc.). On top of that, there really is no way to actually “win” a power struggle, since any victory over a student in a power struggle is entirely pyrrhic in the sense that it damages or destroys the teacher-student relationship.
I suppose it is better to win than to lose a power struggle, if those are your only two choices. But this is certainly not advice I would give to any new teacher. Teachers and school staff in general have to be prepared with a “third way” for resolving power struggles.
Of course, this should only be done by female administrators and even then only in certain communities or cultures, but I get the premise here: discipline is implemented out of concern for a student’s future and well-being, not out of a desire to punish or strike down.
Putting aside her thoughts on power struggles, this chapter is a comforting look at the why behind policies and consequences: only when students genuinely believe you care about them and their future will you be able to make your policies and consequences meaningful.