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Rethinking "Student Discipline" (126/365)


Last week, we celebrated Halloween in our school with each team's grade level adopting a different decade. Fortunately for me, I am on a team that knows my capabilities when it comes to "dressing for the occasion", so I was more or less told what to do for "the 80's".


"Dennis, you are going to be the Principal from The Breakfast Club."


I proceeded to get text message reminders, GIFs, and emails that made me smile up until Friday morning. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I watched the movie hundreds of times and know all the best lines between Richard Vernon and the rest of the cast of rising stars.


I am truly blessed, lucky, fortunate, and then some, to work with such an amazing team.

Coincidentally or not, with our second month of school now behind us, we are back in the swing of the usual middle school routines. Kids are doing what they do. And I've found myself wondering, "How would Mr. Vernon have handled some of the things going on these days, say, at the hands of John Bender. Something tells me, I know how that'd turn out.


A glance at the exchanges in the movie between Vernon and Bender reveal some real issues.

  1. Rising (not lowering) temperatures.

  2. Frequent power struggles.

  3. A lack of mutual respect.

Bender, no doubt, was a challenging "student". But could Vernon have handled things differently? Something tells me, he was not focused on his needs, Bender's needs, and the needs of the relationship between them.


Thinking back, I've known kids like Bender. And sometimes I've succeeded with them, and other times, I've failed. But I've always learned. And I'm better having known them. Kids like Bender are some of our best teachers.


In addition to the myriad Vernon screenshot messages, I also frequently get those like the one below from Brian Mendler. (Remember, as mentioned above, my team is amazing - fun and all about kids!) Imagine if we applied one or all of these ideas, to "kids like Bender"?


What if we dedicated November to rethinking "student discipline"?


What if, instead of the negative connotation associated with it, we thought a bit differently.


What if we challenged ourselves to build our own capacity for self-discipline, and focus (with patience) on helping students, as they develop their own self-discipline for behavior?


What if we modeled what we expected?


Knowing how adolescents rise to the level of expectations and mirror back how they're treated, I bet the 2020s could be the decade we rethink and redefine student discipline.


Click here to visit the Learning Leadership 365 site, where you may read all posts I've written.

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