The single most important improvement we need to make in our schools | Eastern North Carolina Now | In my opinion truer words have seldom been spoken on the subject of what needs to be done to improve our schools.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Bill Massey is a retired teacher and principal. He recently wrote the following in the News & Observer:

    Listing reasons why public schools can seem ineffective these days can be overwhelming: not enough money, too much testing, crowded classrooms, Common Core curriculum, bad teachers, uninvolved parents, overreliance on technology, distractions of social media.

    So why not focus on the one thing that will yield the most immediate results while spending very little money?

    A lack of discipline and minimal consequences for misbehavior in our public schools have the biggest negative effect on classroom performance. Interestingly, discipline is defined as "training to act in accordance with rules" but also as "to punish in order to control." If we had more of the former, we wouldn't need so much of the latter, and the latter, when needed, would be much more effective.

    Modern social scientists warn against using the word "rules" at schools, preferring instead "expectations." Unfortunately, teacher expectations are perceived by today's students to be mere suggestions, and that perception begins in their homes.

    It is amazing how many times teachers can be disregarded and disrespected – even cursed or physically threatened – by students, only to be told by parents that, "He doesn't act like that at home." Yes, he does.

    Rules need to be rules, but they need not be long or many. Few and simple will suffice, but they must be clearly stated and uniformly enforced by all, and the consequences for violation must be immediate, fair, consistent and significant. All punishment should fit the offense, but all offenders should be duly punished – but not corporally – by school administrators and parents.

    We should start with common sense rules for classrooms, where misbehavior is most disruptive to the most students and most detrimental to the learning process. All kids in all classrooms have a right to an education, and no kid in any classroom should be allowed to deprive others of a safe and productive learning environment. Yet it happens every day, in practically every classroom, in every school.

    Established rules could vary from school to school, but not from classroom to classroom, and enforcement cannot vary from teacher to teacher or from day to day. Some teachers never enforce rules with which they do not agree, and some teachers enforce rules one day but not the next, or for some kids but not all. Those teachers are their own worst enemies.

    Equally imperative is that principals support their teachers by respectfully standing up to overly irate parents who rush to judgment having heard only one side of a story.

    When a few essential rules of behavior are stringently enforced, adherence to all other expectations will rather quickly infiltrate a school's culture, creating one of civility rather than chaos.

    That premise seems so simple. Why is that not being done?

    Sadly enough, teachers and principals are reluctant to incur the wrath of today's adolescents and teenagers when they encounter resistance to getting their way. Overcoming a teenager's defiance in order to enforce rules is an unenviable task, and not many want to take it on.

    That is also why far too many parents don't effectively parent their kids. It is simply easier to be their friends.

    There will always be instances of blatant noncompliance in any school, but when teachers send disruptive students to the office and they are immediately sent back to class without consequences only to taunt the teacher – or worse – high-five their now emboldened buddies, those teachers have no hope of controlling those kids – not just for that day but for the remainder of that school year.

    More teachers – young and old – are leaving the profession because of the escalating frequency and severity of abuse from students than are leaving because of their persistently dismal paychecks. They accepted their jobs expecting low pay, but not abuse.

    There are laws protecting the rights of special needs children in schools. There are policies and procedures to protect the rights of incorrigible repeat offenders of school rules and societal norms. But there is nothing for the majority of students who wait respectfully, day in and day out, at the expense of their own educations for everyone else's rights to be honored. The parents of those kids should be outraged.

    If more effort and energy were spent earlier on establishing discipline in all classrooms, less money could be spent on too-late attempts at rehabilitation or on ineffective "alternative settings" where habitual offenders are entertained rather than educated.

    Improved discipline in schools – published rules and stated consequences, to which everyone conforms – will require the support of teachers, principals, parents, superintendents, school boards and community, civic and faith-based leaders. I can't think of a single reason why anyone would balk at carrying his or her share of that load.

    Click here to go to the original source.

    In my opinion truer words have seldom been spoken on the subject of what needs to be done to improve our schools. Many years ago we began to shirk our duty to "maintain order and discipline" in our classrooms and schools. Today we hear constantly that too many kids are suspended from school. And of course corporal punishment has been all but abolished. And our schools and our children have suffered as a result.

    I believe the single greatest "reform" that could be made to improve teacher morale and effectiveness is to establish a firm policy that no teacher has to put up with any disobedient, disorderly or disrespectful student. That is the administration's job. And it is the superintendent's and school board's duty to support the administrators when they administer discipline. It is, and should be, just that simple. A fundamental lesson every student should learn, from experience, is that "because I said so..." is sufficient reason for any directive given a student. And parents would just have to accept that just like the students should have to. If they can't, they should have to keep their child at home until they do learn it.

    But more important that all that is the fact that we are cheating our students of one of the most valuable things they should learn in school: sound discipline. They deserve better than what we are teaching many of them.

    Were we to support our teachers I think we would be losing many fewer than we are and more of our students would be successful in the real world than happens now.

    Mr. Massey has it exactly right.

    Delma Blinson writes the "Teacher's Desk" column for our friend in the local publishing business: The Beaufort Observer. His concentration is in the area of his expertise - the education of our youth. He is a former teacher, principal, superintendent and university professor.
Go Back

Back to Top