Another way to handle discipline

This post is a continuation from yesterday’s when I ranted about seeing too many students in the office at Columbia Elementary.

The principal and I had been having a chat about a grant that Southwest Fresno is getting (that’s where Columbia is located) and she had asked me to sit in on some meetings to discuss how the monies would be used. As I step out of her office, there sits a small boy whom I recognize from my travels around the campus. When he sees me, he looks away, hoping to be invisible. I go over, sit down next to him, and start chatting. It’s a kindergartner and he’s “in trouble.”

“What did you do?”

“I punched Philip in the stomach.”

“Oh, dear. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to do.”

“He called me @&($#.” I won’t say the word and am not even going to type it. 

“So, you punched him?” He nods his head.

“You know, there are better ways to handle that. He shouldn’t be calling you such bad names, but hitting him is not the answer. You need to tell Philip that you don’t allow people to talk to you like that. I don’t allow anyone to say things like that to me. I stand up to them and tell them not to say that. If they continue, I walk away. You need to walk away and tell a teacher.”

Mrs. Brown, the principal is listening to this, nodding. She walks back in her office and I continue this chat with the little guy. I’m thinking the whole time, why didn’t the adults in charge have this talk with the two boys? How did it end up with one in the office and other one no where to be seen? Both boys should be there to work this out.

By now it’s time for me to go to lunch with the first graders so I tell this little guy he will have to wait for Mrs. Brown to bail him out. I don’t know what she did after I left, but I’m sure she was like me, this should never have made it to the office but rather been handled right where the “crime” took place. I don’t think the other boy, who fired the first “shot,” will be changing his ways any time soon, and the hostilities will just be simmering.


school discipline is just not my thing

First, let me review my classroom management skills with you. I taught high school students for 21 years. All grade levels, all sizes, all personalities. I got them all in the elective classes that I taught. I believed that those classes should be so engaging and the students so involved that they didn’t have time nor inclination to get into trouble. I set up the room and the lessons to maximize classroom control. It worked most of the time, but there were occasional miscreants.

I handled those miscreants on my own. Occasionally I moved a belligerent student into another room or made them step outside, where I could still see them, while I continued with the class. When I got to a point where I could step away, then I lit into the kid with the bad behavior, pointing out what they did and what they should have done and were they ready to get back to work OR did I need to call home. My method worked better than 99 percent of the time. I seldom had to send a student to the office, but I did occasionally write up a conduct referral if I thought a good talking to from the vice principal or counselor would make a difference.

The last year I taught was one time I had to call the office for help. I had a kid show up in my advanced multimedia class and insist he was in my class now. Nope. Not on my roll. Go away. He refused to do so. Just sat himself down and would not leave. My students were busy with a website design so they didn’t have time to pay much attention to this character, but he was a little scary in that he continued to loudly insist I give him an assignment. I called the office to send help.

When the campus assistant (CA) showed up, he was rather sheepish. “Did you call for help?”

“Yes, I did,” pointing to the young man. “This kid is insisting he is in this class but he is not enrolled. Please take him away.”

The CA chuckled and got the kid on his feet and headed to the door. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message that YOU needed someone. You never call for help.”

“Darn tootin. I don’t have time for such nonsense.”

Now fast forward to my days at Columbia Elementary. The office always has kids in there that teachers have sent to the office. I don’t get it. These kids are much smaller than those high school kids. What’s going on? Why can’t the teachers handle these kids? Things have changed, but that much? Who is in charge? Who is the grownup? What is going on in those rooms, curriculum-wise? What are the assignments that these students are trying to escape?

I sit with some of these miscreants and we talk. It all seems easy to me to handle, but I’m not the one in the classroom. I’m not the one whose back is up against the wall to produce higher test scores. I’m not the one who has to answer to parents. As I said in the title, school discipline is not my thing.

Addendum: Maybe teachers would have fewer problems if they had lessons like this one.

Summer is coming

Although it feels like early spring here with the cool breezy days, I know the long hot days of summer will be here soon. I only have five more weeks of school chaplain duties. My daughter begins a three-month sabbatical at the beginning of June and we are planning a family trip for 10 days in late June. I’ve been making reservations.

This picture recently showed up on Facebook:

Sounds good for the adults, too. I would add a trip to the farmer’s market into that. Maybe that’s the “playing outside for 20 minutes.” I figure the creative something could be baking or canning. June, July, and most of August will be lovely, long, lazy days for me. I’m looking forward to them.

Sunshine, beautiful sunshine

Friday’s weather was delightful. No wind. Lots of sun. I went to lunch with The Ladies Who Lunch and Terry worked in the front yard.

There were eight of us at lunch yesterday. Biggest group ever. Our one friend who had back surgery in December was able to rejoin us. She brought her x-rays and showed how the surgeon had literally screwed her back into place. Rods, pins, and screws now hold her upright. She even gained a few inches in height and has lost 30 pounds since she can now move. We were all thrilled to see her back in operation. She loves to drive and the doctors have released her to do so. No stopping her now.

Another retired co-worker joined the group, for the first time. Nelva was the attendance secretary at the large inner-city high school where we all worked. She has been retired the longest of all of us, since 2001. She would be one of the first people I would see each morning when I went to the front office to get our mail. She now attends church with one of the other Ladies Who Lunch so she asked if Nelva would like to join us. She was delighted. Because we were such a large group yesterday, and we met at a very noisy cafe, I wasn’t able to talk much to Nelva, but did learn that she is the aunt to another friend of mine. She had noticed that we were friends on Facebook. Isn’t Facebook just the most amazing device for connecting people? I love it.

Because the cafe was so noisy, and we had met early, some of the ladies decided we should move on to a quieter coffee shop to continue our monthly gabfest as the afternoon was still young. My throat was tired, and I had leftovers to take home, so I declined and headed home. Besides, I also had five loads of laundry waiting there for me.

The sun is so bright this morning, I had to draw the living room drapes to see my computer screen. Not complaining, though. Even with the drapes closed, the room is light and bright. Sure makes me feel better. I’m planning to work in the backyard today. With all the rain, everything has grown like crazy and needs lots of pruning. I told Terry I’m not in any hurry to get out there, though. I don’t have my usual get-up-and-go. He said, “it’s more like sit-and-stay, huh?”  Yep, it sure is.

Heard some good news today

Way back in November I wrote about the little girl who needed an alarm clock. She and her brother were not getting to school on time and even the kindergartner believed an alarm clock would help.

After sharing the story with the attendance officer, she agreed, and said lots of students needed alarm clocks. I made it a point, from then on, to look for alarm clocks at thrift stores and yard sales. I’ve handed over quite a few to the attendance officer, so much so that she told another school about what her school chaplain was doing and recommended they get their school chaplain to do likewise. Of course, that school chaplain is a friend of mine! I’m sure I’m going to hear about this at the next chaplain’s meeting.

Today, while in the school’s workroom, I saw the little girl’s teacher and asked him about her. He laughed and said,

“I’m not too sure how it worked, but that alarm clock has turned the family around. The kids are never late. The mother has started taking a parenting class and she’s volunteering here in both kids’ classrooms. She’s been a big help.”

I don’t believe it was just an alarm clock. I believe that the kids and the parent realized someone cared about them and was willing to help them. It made a difference. I’m hoping such care and concern about kids and parents will make a difference. Some days I wonder, and then I hear a story like this.

I thought it was going to be a better day

We awoke to rain, again. Although I grumble about the rain and cloudy weather, it does seem to clear the pollen out of the air for awhile. Finally, this morning, I felt well enough to attempt a foray into polite society. I ran errands. In the rain. The pouring rain.

My first stop was the dry cleaners where I chatted with the proprietor. Such a lovely gentleman. Because it was pouring, and I had a large bundle to carry to my car, he tried to help me by either carrying it or giving an umbrella. I declined both offers as I wear a jacket with a hood when it rains and don’t futz with an umbrella. I didn’t want him to get wet as he was steadily working on ironing when I walked in on him. He could stay warm and dry.

I stopped to put gas in my car. All under an awning but no one to talk to. It went quickly as I only needed 6 gallons. The price of gas had dropped 2 cents! $2.77 a gallon. The governor just signed legislation to raise gas tax an additional 12 cents a gallon beginning November 1. The money is earmarked to fix California’s crumbling infrastructure. It is crumbling. Our roads are a mess. Bridges are just barely hanging in there. I don’t mind paying the additional money as long as it gets spent on these projects.

On to Whole Foods, sucking on a throat lozenge but not coughing. I chatted with the meat counter fellow even though I didn’t buy any meat. He is just such a nice man. We talked about the jazz being played on the sound system. The man in front of me at the check-out had boxes and boxes of cookies. We talked about overdoing it when buying junk food. His purchase made me feel better about my selections of cookies, a slice of cake, and ice cream sandwiches. The cashier and I had a lovely conversation about all sorts of things as she ran all my items through the electronic reader. She is one of my favorite cashiers. So upbeat and positive. We always have a good laugh.

It was only sprinkling by the time I loaded those groceries in the car and headed home. I was surviving. Then it all changed. I made sandwiches for lunch and had to stop numerous times to go in the bathroom and cough. A cup of hot water sipped slowly helped ease the tickle. We ate our sandwiches and I perused Twitter where I discovered that the heart of downtown Fresno was in lockdown due to a shooting. A madman had opened fire on innocent people, in three separate locations, all within a matter of minutes. Three dead, but the suspect taken down peacefully by the police.

The man had shot and killed a security guard over the weekend. He claimed to hate white people and was just taking them out when he felt like it. Such mayhem. Families devastated. Terry and I are talking, talking, talking. I’m coughing, coughing, coughing. I had really planned for a better day.

Post Easter

This is my view from the couch on the Monday after Easter. No sunshine. Cloudy with more rain expected.

If I sit very still, very quiet, not talking, I am fine. I was up at my usual time this morning, not coughing. I baked a pan of brownies, ate breakfast, and did my daily exercises. Wanting to feel normal after being a bum for the past two days, I put on makeup, dressed in big-people clothes, and thought I might even return to normal activities.

Too much movement, too much talking. So here I sit, on the couch, with my fingers moving along my phone’s keyboard. Quiet, still, silent.