Carrying on with my reading of “Hacking School Discipline”, I now present you with the second ‘hack’ in this book – ‘Circle Up’.
The argument presented in this third chapter is that removing a child from the classroom is an easy “out” for anyone who doesn’t want to engage with the learning. The student plays up, the teacher feels obliged to remove them from the class for the sake of the learning of everyone else and the student is given a pass on engaging with the work at that time – obviously impacting their progress and the progress of others as well. The next lesson, they enter without paying any dues toward repairing the harm they caused in the classroom previously.
I’m with you. Happens all the time. The next lesson, we, as teachers, are expected to ‘reset’ and carry on as if nothing happened in the name of giving that person a fresh start, but the problem is that the student hasn’t done anything to earn the fresh start. There’s been no apology; there’s been no reflection of how their behaviour affected the teacher or the other students; there’s been no effort to repair the damage of missed learning time. So what solution is offered here? The class gets into a circle and discusses the impact of the behaviour and collectively decides what must be done by the offending party to repair the damage they caused. Right… I was with you all the way up until “gets into a circle”…
I have no intrinsic objection to the notion of discussing the damage caused by misbehaviour and collectively deciding what that student should do to make up for it. I’m just thinking of how this might play out purely in my own context – and if I’m wrong, I’m more than open to being educated.
So let’s play this out. Student X starts calling out repeatedly in lesson and starts talking with Student Y loudly – talking over the teacher giving instructions and ignoring every demand to be quiet and get on with the work. Neither Student X, nor Y gives a smeg. Teacher says “Circle up!” The students get into a circle and the teacher starts to set expectations of how this is going to work. All the while, the two offending students are still laughing and talking over everything that’s happening and are now commenting on everyone else getting into a circle – something along the lines of, “Ah, here we go. They’re getting into their circle.” As the circle beings, their behaviour is continuing – only this time, they’re interrupting the circle time; the topic of the lesson has stopped and the only ones engaging with the circle were the students that were already engaging with the learning. So in order to effectively engage with this ‘circle time’, the teacher still has to remove the two offenders in order to have the discussion in the first place. So… nothing changed. The students still ended up being removed and the ones involved in the circle discussion weren’t doing anything in the first place. Yes, we can then discuss the collective harm to the class (it’s a good opportunity to reflect on that, no doubt) and decide what those two students would need to do in order to make up for their behaviour, but what if they refuse to do that (which the biggest causes of concern in my own school would definitely do)? What do you do? What actually changed for the two who caused the issue?
Am I looking at this in the wrong way? Someone please educate me on this – and I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically.