The following message is meant to be spread and shared among teachers. Please help me get word out:
On July 19 and 20 administrators were trained on the new 5 Level Discipline plan. Teachers will be formally trained on this plan during pre-planning by administration. The overall idea is to be consistent on the handling of referrals.
I was there and witnessed associate superintendents telling their principals that this is NOT an effort to get soft on discipline or reduce referrals. Referrals MUST be addressed. No administrators is being challenged to reduce referrals. Nobody is getting in trouble for too many suspensions. This is not about reducing or altering. This is about accurate reporting and dealing with problems consistently. That was the message from the district, and I saw it delivered.
To go along with the 5 Level Discipline plan, BFT and BASA (the voice of administrators) rolled out to administrators our LEVEL ZERO concept. Level Zero is our initiative to deal with the ongoing discipline problems in the classroom that do not always lead to referrals. What we’re asking for is a more deliberative and proactive approach in dealing with those students who so commonly seem to be on the edge of a referral. We know the behaviors. The students who frequently call out rude comments, are always out of their seat, put their heads down, always have a toy or phone out as a distraction. These are the kids that always push buttons, always need attention, and always want to deflect from their school work.
So, what’s the plan? I challenged them to know who those kids are and reach out BEFORE a referral. We want administrators pulling these kids aside and having mini-conferences -- quick pep talks, quick check ups, quick words of encouragement -- wherever and whenever possible. We want them to go a step beyond, “How’s your day?” We want them asking about classwork, asking about behavior, asking if they have any concerns. We want them praising them for staying out of trouble (if that’s true) and encouraging them to keep up good work. Or, if there are concerns, we want those addressed.
Along with administrators checking up, I let them know that I’d be encouraging teachers to participate in these mini-conferences. If there’s a dean in the room checking up on a student, and they signal for a teacher to come over, then yes, please participate. If two adults have just a minute to consult quickly with someone -- and that happens a few times a day with a few different teachers -- maybe, just maybe, that level of attention and concern will start to turn some kids around.
This is going to be an all hands on deck approach. A principal might check up with a student during lunch duty. If a teacher is nearby who knows the student, sure, take a moment to offer some encouragement. We can’t expect administrators to magically transform these children alone. Just like they can’t expect us to magically transform them in the classroom.
To go a step further, if an administrator sees a student in the courtyard before school, that’s a great time for a mini-conference. If the teacher can pass through and give the student a one minute pep talk, or a quick overview of the day, or a quick check on homework, that just makes this more effective.
What’s most important about this plan is that there is no manual. There are no right or wrong ways to engage in ongoing mini-conferences. I can’t put in an e-mail or in a training, “Here’s what you say. . .” But the idea is that administrators and teachers are looking for opportunities to reach out in meaningful ways. The idea is to give these students the ongoing attention they need, as opposed to not getting the administrators involved until something has gone wrong.
On July 26, Dr. Thedy, Dr. Bobersky, and Mrs. Catechis spoke to some of our building reps about Level Zero. Building Reps may then talk to faculties during pre-planning, right when administrators are going over Levels 1 through 5. There will be an inservice or workshop in September where Dr. Blackburn and I will talk to all principals and building reps as well. We will encourage everyone and share some early anecdotes. That meeting is tentatively scheduled. More details to follow.
But for now, the idea is to shift a way of thinking that teachers put up with everything they can until they write a referral, and that referral is the first bit help they get. Let’s admit it, the handling of a referral usually doesn’t reform a child. We want to encourage teamwork and collaboration from the beginning. It’s okay for administration to come talk to the kids in the classroom even when they are not in trouble. And it’s okay for teachers to check up on kids anywhere they might see them on campus.
None of this is meant to supercede the discipline plan, PBIS, Glasser, or anything else that might be going on at your school. It certainly is NOT meant to be more documentation, training, check marks, or stalling. But it is a shift in thinking that we hope will encourage some of those students who aren’t really changing a whole lot from other means.
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And help me spread the word.