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Discipline Means "To Teach," Not "To Punish"

This recent article in the New York Times highlights a positive change that we are seeing in schools across the nation.  Zero tolerance policies have not only been shown to be fairly ineffective, but they also disproportionally impact our students of color.  The vast majority of students who misbehave, particularly the ones that do so over and over, lack the skill, not the will to do better.  We know that punishment-based approaches not only do not teach children the crucial thinking skills which are lagging, but they rarely solve the problem in a durable manner.  The word discipline itself actually means “to teach.”  What should we teach?  Why, skills, of course.  And how can we teach these skills?  By engaging the child in a problem solving process in which we are as invested in hearing the child’s concerns as we are in sharing ours. Although not mentioned in this particular article, we are finding that many schools are beginning to incorporate Collaborative Problem Solving into their alternative disciplinary responses.  As a result, not only are they seeing reductions in disciplinary referrals, but reductions in problematic behaviors AND reductions in teacher stress.  When school staff and students collaborate to solve these problems, everybody wins.