I firmly believe that all children are put on this planet for a positive purpose; that each one has a gift that our society needs for its betterment. This is a good mindset for all teachers, because sometimes that gift is buried under layers of misbehavior. To help the child succeed as an adult, it is important to hold to the belief that down in there somewhere is a very worthwhile individual, even if that child just called you fat, slapped little Jimmy and then stole Suzy’s pencil as he fled the classroom. Unfortunately, many school systems handcuff teachers and administrators by giving them few effective tools to correct a child’s lack of positive social skills. Even more unfortunately, one of the few tools given to administrators, out-of-school suspension, is not really a tool at all and is often counterproductive to creating a good child. There is a better way.
The purpose for suspending a child from school is to remove a disruptive child from class so that other children can learn. OSS does that well, but that’s all it does well. What it doesn’t do well is help the disruptive child. First of all, the child misses classroom instruction and is almost guaranteed to fall farther and farther behind in his schoolwork. This leads to the twin specters of failing and further disruptive behavior. Secondly, sending a child home for the parent to deal with doesn’t work so well in stressed or dysfunctional homes. Plus, there is no guarantee that there is going to be any parent supervision at all; many parents are working two jobs just to stay afloat. In this case the child is merely getting a vacation from school, which may be what he wanted in the first place. Thirdly, since none of this vacation stuff will change his behavior, it sets him up for further suspensions, which creates a cycle of alienation from the school and his peers. This cycle can also label a child as “bad,” not only externally from others, but internally in the child himself, which is the biggest danger of all. A child that seriously views himself in a negative light will act accordingly to his self view and simply destroy himself and maybe others on the way out. The jails are full of disruptive, broken children with negative self views; so are the cemeteries. Either way, the positive purpose and talents of that child will never be manifested. This is a waste and should not be for anybody’s child. Schools need a better tool in which to not only save classes from disruption but save the disruptive child from himself.
OSS should be replaced with ISS – in school suspension. In ISS supervised schoolwork will be done so that the child will not fall behind. Some children who struggle with academics need more of a one-on-one tutoring anyway, and this will help them find academic success. ISS will be followed by supervised after school work detail, doing meaningful and valuable work for the school or community. Doing meaningful work will build real-life job skills that the child can use forever. While doing the work the child will be praised for doing productive work. Upon completion of a project, the praise will be doubled. Positive praise from adults for doing positive things will change a child’s external behavior, but more importantly will change a child’s self-view from negative to positive. The “bad” child is not just being removed, out-of-sight, out-of-mind, but is being replaced by a “good” child.
Parents can be involved in a positive way. If they or a designated family surrogate work with the child after school, the child can receive extra credit in some form for the work. The community can provide supervisory adults, either from faith-based organizations, universities, social or business organizations. It is a win-win for the entire community and it will save the child as well as the functioning of the school. Behavioral change through good works. It works.