Leadership magazine Nov/Dec 2015 V45 No 2 - Page 25
within the teacher’s discretion to provide or
not provide work for a suspended student,
Josh probably won’t get the assignments.
On Wednesday, Josh will reluctantly return to class, if at all. He may have spoken to
an assistant principal about what happened.
If he did, he was more than likely chastised
for leaving in the first place. Back in class,
Josh is minimally two days behind his peers,
because he hasn’t been in class and hasn’t
done the homework. He is angry that his
teacher “got him in trouble.” He also has to
face the other students. He will either joke
about what he did, sit sullenly and silently in
the class, or not go at all.
The teacher, on the other hand, will be as
unhappy about having Josh back in class as
Josh is to be there. He is still most likely angry
that Josh had the nerve to leave the classroom
defiantly and mutter something rude as well.
Even though Josh was not in class Monday
or Tuesday, that hardly represents a harsh
enough consequence for what he did.
Given how both parties are feeling, the
best that can be hoped for in this scenario
is that the two will ignore each other. The
reality, however, is that Josh won’t attend
regularly and the teacher will be relieved he
Restorative Discipline Practice
The first part of this story happened exactly as described. It just so happened that
we had just finished a Restorative Discipline
Practice Training at that high school when
the assistant principal asked us if we wanted
to “try it” on this particular student.
Josh had no idea what he was walking
into when he was ushered to the assistant
principal’s office that afternoon. After we
introduced ourselves, we started the work.
Question No. 1 is, “What happened?” That
is pivotal for many reasons. How you ask (in
a non-judgmental almost casual way) sets
the tone for the rest of the experience.
Timing here is also critical in that you
have to let the student get the whole story
out. And, no matter what he says, the person
asking the questions is just listening – really
listening – to the whole answer. You have to
be ready to hear the entire story and to realize that much of it is exaggerated, inaccurate and emotionally charged. The content
of what’s being said is important, but not as
important as the trust you’re building in how
you listen to the story.
In this case, Josh had a lot to say. He
told us, “Everyone in the class was goofing around and talking. No one else got in
trouble. The teacher is horrible and doesn’t
do anything, ever.” And then came the questions: “Are you going to talk to the rest of the
class? Are you going to do anything about
the teacher? Are you going to talk to him?”
As the story progressed, he told us that
he got fed up with what was going on in
class and decided to leave. He also told us
he said something “not nice” on his way out
the door. It’s interesting to note that the
students do actually admit what they did
as they tell the story. In large part we believe that this is because we let them tell the
whole story. We don’t interject, or admonish
or judge – we just listen.
When we think the student has told the
entire story, we then tell one tiny white lie.
We tell the student that we are going to deal
with everything he just talked about and address it, which we don’t do, mainly because
the real work is about to begin with the student now that the story is out. We tell the
student that today is about talking just with
him, and about helping him look at just his
part of the interaction.
Digging a little deeper
The second question digs a little deeper.
And again, how you ask it is critical: “What
were you thinking at the time?” Josh replied
quickly, “I was tired of not doing anything
in class, and the teacher wasn’t doing anything. My mom always yells at me because
she has to wait in traffic when she comes to
pick me up. I figured I would get out early
and make her happy. I didn’t think it would
make any difference.” Now Josh has given us
something to work with.
The next question is, “What have you
thought about since the incident happened?”
This too is an important question, and one
you have to be ready to poke around in a bit.
Usually when we ask it, the student quickly
replies, “Nothing.” Here’s where we get to
work. “Have y