October 16, 2015
Technically, this is being written on Thursday and before I even know how your PLC discussion with Ty about Power Struggles went. Therefore, please read my message with it in mind that I want good to come from this exercise.
I think I can safely say at this point every teacher in the high school is feeling the effects of a tough year. I know Sally, Ty, and I along with Tanya and the counselors are getting slammed with student discipline issues, and the more tactics and suspensions we throw at them the worse the behavior is getting. The culture of the building is spiraling out of control with a negative force, and that causes me to worry about what is going on. My hope from the power struggles activity is to get some focus back in all of us on what is important. I want it to help you figure out what battles you want to fight and which ones can wait.
I know we can get this building back to a normal standard for Hallsville, but it is going to have to start with us. The kids are wound tight and fighting back for their perceived lack of respect. Ty and I have had a ton of conversations with students this year and many of them revolve around some type of disrespect. They feel disrespected from a teacher or another student and it makes them puff up and fight back to save face. I have heard a few students (and even some teachers) say “You have to give respect to get it.” I’m sorry, but that attitude from anyone crawls right up my back. I tell students all the time to be the bigger person and GIVE respect first like the golden rule of treat others how you want them to treat you back. The same goes for us. We need to give respect out at all times. Yes, teenagers make that difficult to do. I live with 2 of them, and it is very tough to give respect when they are dug in and challenging me. I also see the other side of this issue and we have a group of students who think everything is disrespect. I am counseling them that their skin is too thin or they are too soft if that is all it takes to send them off the deep end. I’m working on them, but they have a long way to go still.
The other thing that students complain about once they have been sent to us is consistency and fairness. It is like listening to my 5 year old in here most days when you asked them what happened. They usually start off with “another student had their phone out, but I’m the ONLY one that ever gets in trouble for it.” I tell them that is hard to believe or that I don’t feel like anyone here would target just a student or two and let everyone else slide. I don’t tell the students, but they could be right and another student did break a rule and you didn’t catch them. Young kids perceive that as disrespect or picking on them. When in reality, it just means you can’t catch everyone so be careful what battles you want to fight, because being consistent and fair is a perception from the students.
There was a situation one morning where a student refused to comply with taking the hat off in the hallway and no the kid’s name was not Derek. The teacher came and got me, and by the time I got there, the hat was off, but he still refused to give the hat to me. At that point, I messed up and fell for the power struggle. Oh you don’t want to comply with the principal, I will show you how powerful I am. That is when I started threatening OSS (over a hat). We marched into my office and I called dad. I explained the situation and my frustration with his child’s refusal to follow demands. I put the student on the phone and after to hearing a few “yes sirs” come out of his mouth, he handed me the phone and the hat. It was a big reminder to me that I handled the situation wrong and it also was a reminder of how powerful a parent is. The only thing that made this easier for me was I had already established a good relationship with this parent. They knew I cared about their child and I needed their help. Get out and get those relationships built now before the blow up. Then when you call home and say things like “I am calling, because I am starting to struggle with Johnny. Do you have any suggestions for me on making this better?”
I know we all want the culture around here to get back to where we were or even better. That means we are all going to have to help with the cause. Take a step back and realize that you are the adult in the situation and refuse to engage in a power struggle, especially with those kids who are looking to pick a fight with anyone and everyone in the first place. Every interaction a teacher has with a student around here shifts the balance of the culture. Positive interactions make the culture better, but negative interactions bring us down. I need more of the positives right now to get the student culture headed back in the right direction. Honestly, ask yourself what can you do to let some struggles go and focus in on how to be the positive person. We all have to work on this and realize that if things are really going to change around here to shift the focus off of discipline and back on learning, then it starts with us wanting to be better at interacting with students.
You are awesome people and amazing teachers and I know you got in this business to help kids learn. You don’t want to go home miserable everyday, I don’t want you to, and really the students don’t want you to either. I want you to love being here and wanting to be around kids. Please help me get our high school headed back in a positive direction.