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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Who Decides?

What is considered "polite and respectful" behavior by students in a classroom?

I saw this question asked in the context of it appearing on the Danielson Framework model and someone asked, "Who decides?"

My first reaction is, "the teacher?"  And perhaps guided by norms that the principal, working with all the teachers and staff, decide?  I note that when there were discussions several years back about dress codes and eating in the halls in high school, that teachers had differing views and kids knew to learn who allowed what.

As someone who has been in classrooms over the last three years, I can say it's a lot looser than when I was in school.  And I think that's better especially for younger students who tend to need to get up to walk around or who have a great idea that pops in their head that they just have to get out.

But at some level, teachers do have to be in control of the class.  There can be times for talk and times for listening.

I also understand that with diverse classrooms come diverse cultural norms.  For example, when I lived in Italy, the idea that parents would come to the school for anything but a meeting or to help with a class party would be out of the norm.  Some cultures value speaking your mind.  As well, there are also the needs of kids with special needs like kids on the autism spectrum who have problems with high levels of noise.

I honestly don't know who does decide in SPS what "good" classroom behavior looks like.  And, what would that look like in elementary vs middle vs high school?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

You mean norms like ebonics and threats against white teachers, are those the norms?


Fight Back

Disproportionate said...

Here's the district's Discipline Matrix for last year. It shows to some extent who gets to decide on some issues. E.g., selling or using drugs or alcohol at school? => suspension or expulsion. Misuse of computers? => teacher or principal/AP. Hazing? => suspension or expulsion. Firearms? => mandatory expulsion. Physical aggression, burglary, dangerous weapons? => not the teacher, has to be at least a "school-based response."
https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Discipline/DisciplineMatrix2018-2019.pdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Fight Back, I'm talking about everyday behavior. I don't think most teachers bother correcting anyone's English, especially native-born speakers.

Threats against teachers is an escalated behavior, not an everyday one.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, not talking about discipline.

Anonymous said...

I find it pretty shocking that you just responded to Fight Back's comment as if it were a non-offensive point that required clarification. That wasn't even a veiled comment that required some sophisticated analysis to pick up what the implication is- come on Melissa.

And Fight Back- you are what is wrong with this world and specifically with Seattle.

I think this is a point worth considering and discussing openly- my own children have come home and asked about why certain kids seem to get into trouble more than others. In my house, we talk about how different families have different expectations around noise levels and that some teachers come from a background with one set of norms while their students have grown up with a different set of norms. My children get this, funny that it is so hard for so many grown-ups.

Anti-racist mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anti-Racist Mom, you have to pick your fights. I was trying to steer the conversation to where it should be.

And you don't say what you think might be helpful in the classroom. I think it's great to talk about this at home but what actually happens in your child's classroom is what I'm trying to discuss.

Anonymous said...

Funny, if white parents wanted their own spelling standards or behavior tolerances the libs would be suing everyone.


Fight Back

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fight Back, instead of being snarky, why don't you say what you mean? And, if you think current norms are wrong/inadequate, what do you suggest?

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the redirect AND think we all owe it to our community to call out the overt and veiled racist comments that are made here, especially since white parents sure seem to use this blog as some kind of guide for navigating the maze of SPS.

Since you asked about classrooms- I'm not an educator but last year, we experienced an elementary school teacher who supported the students to set classroom norms and then communicate with one another when they weren't being met. It was a powerful experience because she managed it really well. Certainly, student agency is critical here and their role should grow as kids move from early elementary to high school.

Contrary to the notion that things are "loose" nowadays, my observation has been that discipline is doled out very liberally, recess is OFTEN revoked and we have a lot of room to improve.

Anti-racist mom

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

FightBack, you need to have solutions, not just flamethrow.

Anti-Racist Mom, the kids were guiding each other in behavior? Interesting. And what about how the students treat the teacher? That's student-led as well?

I think that sad to take recess away from any kid. I have asked kids to sit with me for a minute during recess if they break a rule or are unkind but never the entire thing.

Anonymous said...

I would not assume every commenter here lives in Seattle.

It should be noted that the ebonics controversy stemmed from Oakland Unified passing a resolution in 1996 recognizing Ebonics as a language separate from English. This is the same district SPS is using as a model for their focus on African American males, a district which was so poorly managed that it had to be taken over by the State at one point. The state bailed them out and instituted significant cuts. Not surprisingly, enrollment fell (though, to be fair, many middle class families already did their best to avoid Oakland public schools by moving to neighboring districts or going private). In 2012, it had one of the highest proportions of students enrolled in charter schools, statewide (not sure where they stand today).

...but back to the discussion of behavior norms. As a volunteer, way back when, I was disheartened and frustrated by the practice of denying recess to students. This seemed like an accepted practice, and this was at schools with lower than average minority enrollment. It seemed like an issue with imposing female behavior norms on young boys. We greatly appreciated our children's male school teachers - who are few and far between in elementary classrooms - who seemed able to channel energies in a positive way (another reason Hersey's experience is valuable, in addition to his policy experience in DC). One kindergarten teacher talked about his intentional classroom structure which had students getting up and moving around.

another perspective

Anonymous said...

@Anti-racist mom, we experienced a similar approach but found it less than optimal. An experienced an elementary school teacher supported the students to set classroom rules and expectations (which were then posted all over the room), but it felt like it took for-ev-er and they couldn't get on with the work of actually learning subject matter material for so long because they spent all their time trying to come up with rule after rule, expectation after expectation. The students may have had agency, but I didn't get the sense they were all excited about rule-setting as the primary function of school. To note, the teacher also DID use the recess-denial approach--I'm not sure if it was used as punishment for rule-breaking, but it was definitely used as a "solution" to students not focusing hard enough on their work and thus not getting it done in the allotted time. Never mind that some of these students had ADHD (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and denying them recess to encourage them to "focus harder" wasn't effective... You'd think that the response to a student who clearly had trouble focusing might be to inform the parent that the child seemed to, you know, have trouble focusing. I can't imaging that denying such students the opportunity to burn off some energy during recess helped, but some teachers are pretty set in their ways.

As to your comment that things seem "loose" nowadays and that discipline is doled out very liberally, my kids would largely disagree. Their overall experience was that teachers (in middle school and high school especially) often had little control over their classrooms, much to the detriment of actual learning. When kids are talking and goofing off, it's hard to pay attention. When teachers are inconsistent with discipline, they end up spending more time *trying* to get kids in line, but with little success. In either situation, learning suffers for all, not just those acting out.

I'm fine with students helping to set the rules and expectations--and even some of the consequences--but I think the teacher needs to come in with a set of baseline elements that are required. The teacher establishes the foundation, and maybe works with the kids to gently fine tune them. Then, and perhaps most importantly, the teacher needs to be consistent in enforcing them. That's usually where I see things break down.

HF

Melissa Westbrook said...

HF, consistency should be the mantra for school and home. It's the hardest thing to do but you get better outcomes when you are consistent. (And less arguing with kids.)

Anonymous said...

@Melissa

Why is a volunteer (you) determining discipline in a classroom?

Not okay. That is the job of the teacher. Period.

Legal issues could arise from this practice.

Teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teacher, I did not say in class. On the playground. I talked about this with both my teacher and the principal. They said ok.

It helps to read.

Anonymous said...

@Teacher, I'm curious about what you said: "Why is a volunteer (you) determining discipline in a classroom? Not okay. That is the job of the teacher. Period. Legal issues could arise from this practice."

Does that also apply to teaching? As in ""Why is a volunteer (you) TEACHING in a classroom? Not okay. That is the job of the teacher. Period. Legal issues could arise from this practice."

I ask because, in my experience, volunteers are often asked to teach. The teacher may work with one group that needs extra attention, while volunteers work with others. Is it more ok for volunteers to fill in re: the teaching part (which seems like the primary job of teachers) than the discipline piece? What are the legal issues?

Thanks for clarifying,
HF

Outsider said...

Minor historical note: the Oakland nomination of Ebonic as a distinct language was not a simple or straightforward thing. It was more of a tongue-in-cheek protest of the state funding formulas then in place. The state gave extra money to school districts for each ELL student they served. The Oakland district argued that high poverty created an equal need, and wanted a similar sort of funding supplement for poor students. They declared Ebonic a separate language so they could designate all of their black students as ELL and get the extra state funds -- not because they really thought the scheme would work, or wanted to teach Ebonic in the schools. They really wanted the state to alter its funding formula to give more to high-poverty schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

HF, see how that teacher came back to answer your question? Oh, they didn't. Yes, because that person is likely NOT a teacher but wanted to needle me. Sigh.

Outsider, good insights.