Chapter 14 of Boyd’s book is called “Special Delivery: How to Issue Consequences.” Here, Boyd moves on from simply laying out her school’s list of potential violations and their ensuing consequences and focuses on the way in which those consequences are proffered to students.
At times in the chapter, Boyd seems to contradict her earlier ideas about consequences as the driving force for the success of her schoolwide discipline plan. That being said, those contradictions are actually welcome, because I find the points she makes here to be more valuable than her various lists of consequences:
So many adults struggle with enforcing consequences. Maybe teachers want to avoid the extra work of calling the parent or supervising a detention.
I don’t believe this is the reason.
Maybe they fear a student’s escalation into anger, disrespect, or defiance. Maybe they feel they will have no further recourse if a student does not fulfill the consequence they assign.
I think we’re getting warmer.
Some teachers may fear losing relationships if they discipline students.
I think for a lot of teachers, this is it. The current generation of teachers coming out of school has likely been trained to understand the value of building the teacher-student relationship, but unfortunately may have the wrong idea about where discipline fits into that.
If a student talks back or refuses to serve consequences when they are issued, then the teacher really does not have a viable relationship with that student anyway. Ironically, being able to discipline a youngster with firmness, while communicating compassion for his or her situation, is the best means by which to build a relationship. The opposite of love is not hate but disinterest. If adults don’t care enough about kids to correct self-destructive behaviors, those adults are not really needed in school.
Well, I’m not sure I would say disciplining with compassion is the best way to build a relationship (how about a friendly game of basketball instead?), but I get the point. This goes back to yesterday’s post about how disciplining students doesn’t necessarily have to drain the student-teacher or student-administrator relationship (as a withdrawal from a bank account does). There is a reason kids often (counterintuitively) have the fondest memories of the teachers who were the strictest with them and often seem to come back to visit them the most (as long as the “strictness” was accompanied by caring and respect).
Why is it that some teachers and administrators can issue the most severe consequences to kids and get no attitude or anger, but others can’t even give a warning without kids retorting with disrespect? It’s not the list of rules and consequences that influence kids; it’s the character of the [adult].
There are some out there who would take this one step further and say, “If it’s not the rules and consequences that influence kids, then why do we still have the rules and consequences?” but I don’t think that’s the right question to be asking, at least not for 99% of schools. Even the schools that focus primarily on skill-building and restoration/restitution after violations still benefit from a baseline of rules and consequences from which to work.
The major takeaway here is one of those simple things we already know to be true but still need to hear: it’s not what we say but how we say it.