1. When it comes to the concept of Do No Harm, I believe...
There is an old saying with some behaviorists in education, “You don’t get a dolphin to do tricks by yelling at it.” In other words, “Rules don’t teach children, people do” (Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, 2012, p. 40). Therefore if I want a bully-free school, I must not become the bully. This process is called modeling, and it is a cornerstone of teaching philosophy. The culture I seek to foster starts with me.
I am also currently participating in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) to help support my child, who has some special needs. The interactions are very simple and yet one must be fully present and aware while the therapy is happening. The same tools I am learning through PCIT, I am also applying in my classroom.
2. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in discipline policies and practices?
I believe that if a teacher does not have classroom management skills, then there can be no education in the classroom. My policies and practices would be teacher focused. It is teachers who have the greatest contact with students, and they are the ones who need the most support. Engaging and supportive professional development would be my first step, my base level. After all, as a school leader, it is my job to support teachers in their success. Providing teachers with a greater tool set of skills for classroom management will directly benefit students.
No student should be sent to the office for not having a pencil. If we, as professionals, know that every behavior is a form of communication, then two questions have to ask. What is the student communicating? What is the teacher communicating? I believe that by answering the second question, first, then one part of the conflict can be heard.
3. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in program practices and initiatives?
As a leader, my job is to make the challenge of teaching easier. As a leader, I need to support teachers and give them what they require to create our shared vision of culture on the campus. Therefore, I would want a volunteer team to look for sources of school problems, the deep underlying problems that happen in the classroom. I am not talking about carrots sticks, left on the ground, after lunch. Questions like, “What disrupts learning in the classroom?” Once the team can create our fix-it list of questions, then as a campus staff we will come together to identify the source of the problems. This is a big process and would take time and development. If I were a leader at my current site, I would say that the process would take around three years to complete, roughly the amount of professional development time of a college course.
4. Future sphere of influence, as the school leader, how would my beliefs be reflected in our professional development as a community of learners?
Everyone knows, teachers especially, that forced apologies don't work. When teachers demand students to apologize, the students “are forced to apologize, it’s not going to be sincere, and the receiver of the apology will know that” (Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, 2012, p. 57). I would say the same is true for teachers and training. If a leader wants to create authentic change in culture, the process must be sincere, and not reform du jour. When teachers are forced to attend necessary training, also known as mandated professional development, and the training has no follow, no continued support, then the teacher will lack sincerity applying the content from the training.
5. Is the concept of teaching students to “first do no harm” integrated into the culture of your school (or workplace)?
Sadly the idea of “First, do no harm” is not part of my school culture. “Doing no harm” can be viewed as implicit in school rules and policies, but it is not explicitly stated. There is hope, though. Slow change is taking place at my school site. Our new Assistant Principal’s first change to the culture of discipline was to overhaul the referral process. He created a new form for sending students out of the classroom. Gone from the form is the category called “06. Defiance.” I even joked with him that the category should be replaced with “Teen acting like a teen.” However, when the new form was sent to the district office for printing, the district office sent back boxes of freshly printed old forms! Change does not come easy, at all levels. To be honest, even the SIS that is responsible for tracking student behavior needs an overhaul. There is one category called ‘Defiant Student’ and another called ‘Student Defiance.’ It seems that the district doesn’t know what to label the behaviors of some students.
6. How does your answer to the previous prompt sit with you?
Thanks for asking, I didn’t like typing the answer. In fact, I danced around the larger issue, that to teach students “First, do no harm” that teachers must model this behavior. The problem is that many teachers use their position of authority to bully students. There is a classroom where learning can not happen because students (and I am directly quoting here) feel “unsafe” and “in danger” from a teacher. “Do no harm” indeed.
7. Current sphere of influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more positive restorative place.
ONE: Gratitude. I will be thankful for those around me, from co-workers to students.
TWO: Ask. If I ask a student “How are you doing” I am going to mean it and be ready for whatever their answer is.
THREE: Recognize. Success comes in different colors, shapes, sounds, and tastes. Not every form of success is labeled with an “A” at the top of the paper.
FOUR: No cheese. There are no cheese plates in the staff room. But there is plenty of wining, or should I say whining. I am not going to be a part of that, just that simple. Anyone can complain, not everyone can focus on the solutions.
FIVE: Remember. My master teacher once said to me “A positive attitude might not solve all your problems, but it will annoy just enough people to keep things interesting.”
Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Pumpian. I. (2012). How to Create a Culture of Achievement In Your Schools and Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD