Many times, the best opportunities for learning do not occur in classrooms. This is especially true for administrators, as we perhaps have fewer chances to interact with students in the classrooms than our teachers do.
Consider a student that is “sent to the office.” (That phrase makes me cringe a little, but I know it happens more often than I care to believe.) Each administrator has a preference for dealing with student behaviors and potential discipline scenarios. The policies and techniques will vary according to student ages, school district policies, and by administrator philosophies. My sincere hope is that each situation is handled with an element of care and respect for the child as an individual. No two children are the same. Why should any two conversations about behavior be the same? Consistency and fairness can be obtained without doling out blanket consequences.
The poem above resonated strongly with me. The students who are most often referred to my office are those that are craving positive relationships with the adults in their lives. It is unlikely that a consequence alone will instill in them a desire to change behavior. What will? They want to be heard. They want to be valued. They want you to understand. So you have to listen.
Chris Wejr reminds us in his post The Power of Positivity that the positive connections we make with students and families are crucial in helping to build relationships and a community of learners. Make time every day, every week, all year long, to build those relationships with your students. Don’t wait until students appear outside your office door. Go to them. The cafeteria. They playground. Their sporting events. Their classrooms. Their homes. Be a positive part of their lives. And if they have to visit your office? Make it a comfortable place to be. I’ve heard so many people question why my office isn’t a cold and sterile place where children fear to be sent. Really? Do I want to be known as the person children fear in our school? Absolutely not! For that reason, my office is equipped with a basketball hoop, putting green, tabletop football and ping-pong, and giant beanbag chairs surrounded by books to read. I want students to visit! I want to hear all about their days and what they love about school and what they would change and what they are doing this weekend and what their favorite movies are and what hilarious new jokes they heard on the bus.
Will you be that someone? The person who looks a child in the eye? Who helps him learn more about this tricky business that we call life? By engaging in thoughtful, caring conversation and collaborative problem-solving with students in need, students will learn to trust and believe in themselves as learners, and set out on the road to making better choices. They’ll know they have a supporter in you.
And you? I guarantee you will leave the conversation having learned a thing or two.