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 isn’t there. 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