Saturday, October 26, 2013

Who's Jurisdiction?

In this clip from Beverly Hills Cop 3, Billy asks the million dollar question:  Whose responsibility is it?

As a young educator years ago, I found myself in an awkward position during classroom parties, field trips, and in daily interaction with parents.  The awkwardness occurred when students misbehaved or simply "crossed the line" in front of both the teacher and parent.  

I distinctly remember one incident that happened during my first year as a teacher.  The local Lions Club had come to my classroom and asked that we decorate two large Christmas trees in the village.  I gladly accepted.  I believed this would be nice PR and it would give my students a chance to "give back".  We created dozens of yards of cheerio string ornaments and tried very hard to be eco friendly. The day finally arrived.  I asked parents to walk with us given the fact that we'd be traveling about a half mile on foot through town.  I had a handful of parents volunteer their time.  As we began walking to the Post Office I had a student running ahead of us and "clowning around".  His mother was walking with us as well.  When we reached the first stop sign I pulled him aside and quietly asked him to stay with the group.  We continued on past the ball fields and fire department, and the young man held it together until we got to the Post Office.  At this point it became awkward.  The student was the definition of "class clown".  He was loud, showing off and getting others riled up.  I was busy with the other students as I tried to help organize the decorating.  But deep down I was struggling. I expected the young man's mom to step in.  Unfortunately she only said the occasional, "settle down" or "come over here and help your friends".  He blew her off and continued to act out.  The final straw came when he began throwing pine cones on the roof of the Post Office.  I stepped in and had him sit on the ground by the curb.  This was very challenging for me.  

In some ways I still struggle with this.  When I'm out front waving goodbye to students and families I see some things that shouldn't occur.  I hesitate and I wonder if I should speak up or should I defer to the parent?
The question is: Who's jurisdiction is it?  We're at school, shouldn't I speak up?  Or...they're with their parents, isn't it up to the parent to deal with it?  This can be a daily conundrum...field trips, pick-ups, classroom parties, you name it.

My first year as principal I vividly remember our overnight Greenfield Village Field Trip with our third graders.  That night the students and dads were preparing for bed.  There were easily 50 bunk beds in one spacious and industrial room.  It was roughly 10:25pm and the room was very raucous.  I was exhausted and I walked around informing students and dads that we had lights out in four minutes.  The time passed and lights went out.  But the noise didn't.  In fact for 4-6 minutes I swear the noise increased!  I finally glanced at my watch and decided enough was enough. I sternly raised my voice and shouted, "Knock it off! Lights out!"  You could hear a pin drop.  The next morning several dads approached me and thanked me for "putting my foot down".  This was a tremendous learning experience for me.  

As I reflect on those moments I still wonder, Who's Jurisdiction?  I believe many teachers defer to parents when they are in the room or with their child.  Some teachers are comfortable disciplining students in the presence of parents, but I believe most walk a fine line.

We've always said, "It takes a village."  I believe this, but it doesn't make it any easier.  My advice on Who's Jurisdiction is -

*  Be professional - when disciplining in a public area, remain patient and professional

*  Discipline with dignity and respect, as you would if the parent was in the room - don't fear the reaction, but be aware of the day and age we live in.

*  Remember we deal with student issues more than parents; don't expect parents to have all the answers.  Sometimes parents look to the teacher to take charge because they know that they aren't strong at disciplining.

*  Partner with parents.  Don't be afraid to speak with parents and "team" up to get the best results.  The goal is getting students to improve the behavior or conduct. This shouldn't be an issue we tiptoe around,  but instead one we work together to improve.  

So who has jurisdiction?  I believe it is ours as educators.  I'll admit this can be touchy, but I believe in whole child education.  This mentality means we must step out of our comfort zones and address behavior we do not approve of, even if parents are in attendance.

This week's big question:  Classroom parties create a lively atmosphere, do you adjust your behavioral expectations or keep them the same?

Next Week At A Glance:

Monday, October  28th:  Tech Meeting at 1pm
Tuesday, October 29th:  TEAM meeting at 9am
Tuesday, October 29th:  3rd grade to Jiffy Mix
Wednesday, October 30th:  Assembly 8:45 for grades K-2
Wednesday, October 30th: TAT at 2:50 (email invites)
Wednesday, October 30th:  Halloween in the Science Lab 7-8 at SAU
Thursday, October 31st:  Halloween Parties begin in the PM.  Parade is set for 2:15 around the walking track.
Friday, November 1st:  No School, PD day (meeting at Parma Elementary)

Articles Worth Reading:

Steal Like An Artist #nerdybookclub by Jason Griffith

Educational Tweeting shared by +Erin Klein @KleinErin by @YollisClass

Videos Worth Watching:

MUST SEE! +TheEllenShow  (5 min) This is hilarious!

If you love watching great Marching Bands this is an impressive video! (11 min)

This is inspiring! Anything is possible with a positive attitude. (8 min)

Added to make you smile!  Enjoy...

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Ben! Dignity piece is key and can be a great model for parents in the area (when it works!). Thanks for the reminder...really enjoy reading your stuff.