Saturday, November 23, 2013

Discipline or not?

Bernardo came to resource room, a rare occurrence, to tell me he wouldn't be there for a few days since he was probably going to be suspended.

We have a new method this year to deal with behavior issues suspend, suspend, suspend.  If you are wearing a hat you get suspended, if you take your cell phone out you get suspended, if you have  a major or minor fight you get suspended.  If you curse out a teacher you get....

well maybe you get suspended.
Maybe you don't.

Being disrespectful to teachers is not a huge infraction apparently, not like walking around the school with a hat on is.

So Bernardo told me the story.
It was a long story.  They all are.

Mr.  (now I'm having a problem here- I'd like to insert the name of a forest animal, because that would be the teacher's name in translation, but for some reason most of the forest animals I am coming up are real names of teachers in the school- which is condition I find fascinating and when I share that opinion with colleagues I get the kind of looks that makes me think I will never really fit in.)

Back to story.
Mr. Forest told him to move his seat,  And the long and short of it was Bernardo didn't.

So I called the dean who said, she had just gotten off the phone with Bernardo's foster mother who shared the fact that Bernardo had stopped taken his medications because he wanted to join the army and you couldn't join the army if you are on meds.

You can't join the army if you can't read, didn't graduate high school or can't move your seat when a superior tells you to- either, but that conversation with Bernardo is still in the future.

If I thought the dean's office was uncaring and inflexible, it was just because I hadn't spoken to that dean.

She explained sadly, that she didn't really want to suspend Bernardo, but a) he would need to be removed from Mr. Forest's class for a week, b) he would need a place to go fifth period and c)someone would have to talk to Mr. Forest about why Bernardo was not going to be suspended.

I went to talk to Mr. Forest.  Mr. Forest attended the high school in the days when the school was populated mostly by second and third generation families of European immigrants who worked in the blue collar trades NYC had no shortage of then. I wouldn't doubt he was the first member of his family to graduate college.  He is a well liked teacher with few discipline problems, but one who looks back wistfully,  to the days when the school was a respected institution instead of building that is persistently on the list of schools in need of improvement.

Mr.  Forest was one of the people who complained loudly about what was perceived as a lax discipline policy last year.  So it was with great trepidation that I approached him.

I told him how Bernardo had been abused by his father and ended up in foster care.

"My father, was everything to me," Mr Forest recalled, "I want to be everything to my son.  Let the dean make whatever plan she thinks is best."

The plan.

Bernardo did not get suspended.  He apologized to Mr Forest and promised to move his seat next time.He had to attend my fifth self-contained math class for the week instead of going to Mr. Forest's general ed one.

On Wednesday afternoon I heard Bernardo reporting to the other kids in the resource room that I had been banging my head against the wall during fifth period.  I can't recall the exact incident, But I do recall banging my head against the wooden closest, (so much more comfortable than the hard plaster walls.-  Fifth period math has been going less than smoothly this week). He is happy to return to Mr. Forest's class next week.

Oh and by the way- Bernardo didn't curse out Mr.  Forest.  That was some students in Teacherkarps class.  They were not suspended. She told me about it on the car ride home Friday.

I will go negotiate with the dean about them  on Monday.

I am an equal opportunity negotiator. (Busybody?)

PS:  We had a discussion on Friday about the new suspension policy.
"Why do they think giving us a week off is a punishment?"  Evan asked.

I pressed the group for what they thought would be an appropriate policy and got no concrete answer.
I think the answer is an engaging curriculum, which is what we have less and less of every year.

But what do I know?  I'm just a  white suburban soccer mom.

No comments:

Post a Comment