Got Discipline? (Charter School Diaries)

About Randy Miller

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Year 2 Week 3- 1/21 – 1/25

DisciplineOne of my roles as an assistant principal is school disciplinarian. I loathe this role.

My charter school uses a lottery system to enroll students. There are no requirements to apply to the school; prospective students are vetted somewhat, however we do not reject any applications. We have rules, regulations and policies that we expect students as well as parents to abide by i.e. proper wearing of the school uniform at all times, daily attendance to school and etc.

We’re not a “school to prison pipeline” school; we don’t call the cops if there is a fight. There are security guards but they only monitor who enters and leaves the building; their only interaction with students is watching them in the hallways on camera. What we (teachers and administration) do is nitpick the hell out of students and over utilize the consequence of an after-school detention – which no longer holds weight with students. Some of our kids back talk our teachers when given a directive. Some kids choose to disobey rules. Some students come to school out of uniform and backtalk teachers when told to “fix it.” We threaten, “punish,” whine and complain about student behavior. Teachers blame administrators for not following through with consequences and administrators blame teachers for their lack of classroom management skills.

The truth is that we have become a school consumed with passing state test and controlling student behavior. This philosophy has created a culture where kids hate school even if they understand the necessity of learning. Teaching to the test is not teaching… it is manufacturing responses based on repetition. That is boring quite naturally. Children then misbehave because they are bored and because they are not being challenged. Once that happens, we have to “control” kids and institute “law and order” policies in schools. Presidents named Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Clinton instituted law and order public policies and all that has led to is the annihilation of the Black and Brown men and the destruction of Black and Brown families. Law and order in schools, specifically urban schools, in partnership with teaching to the test, is leading to the gradual annihilation of Black and Brown minds, spirits and futures. It is happening at my school. This breaks my heart.

Moment of the Week

This has probably been the coldest week of the winter season; we’ve been experiencing single digit temperatures. For whatever reason, boilers are turned off in my building at the end of the day so the next day it is very cold. Many of the classrooms are cold. The same is true for our lecture hall and cafeteria. Many of our kids cannot afford coats so they wear sweatshirts. Our young ladies wear skirts as part of their uniform. Many of them do not have tights so when they come to school, they have on their sweatpants. School policy is that students are to be in full uniform when they enter school. So it is no shock that I got 40 plus write-ups recommending after school detention for uniform violations and defiance for back talk regarding instructions to get into the proper uniform. If I choose to do real work, like writing curriculum, mentoring new teachers and keeping up with my classes, the discipline stuff gets to pile up. Yesterday, I decided to get to the discipline work after doing other work. As I am going through the list of write-ups, gathering phone numbers to contact parents and sifting through worthwhile write-ups and the nonsense, I got a headache and I became very upset.

I started calling parents for legitimate write-ups and I am going back and forth with some who want to argue the detention. Others answer my call with defeat in their voice because they know I am not calling for a good reason. At the same time, more teachers bring me more write-ups and my frustration plays tricks on my mind because I hear jolliness in their voices when they drop off these write-ups. Some teachers want to stop in and “talk” to me about a student. More times than they would admit, talking turns into complaining and I no longer want to hear complaining. I can complain about a few things myself. Nevertheless, work has to get done so I’d rather stick to the facts and keep it moving. I have thought about leading a charge to overhaul discipline at my school, but the infrastructure and philosophy within our district would only allow for band-aids and not surgery. I am about scalpels, not bandages.

Lesson of the Week

If we hyper-threaten children and over utilize consequences, our disciplinary practices will be ineffective. All children should be respectful and obey the rules of their school or any institution they frequent. Yet Black and Brown children, like all other children, are to be educated and not controlled. But the real lesson in my experiences is that the United States is concerned with preparing a workforce to meet the demands of a global economy that seeks cheap labor. People can say what they want… Black and Brown children are being placed on the assembly line to become the 21st century worker: poorly paid, marginally skilled and overworked foot soldiers. No longer can any of us blame children of color for seeking a good life for themselves and their families through sports, entertainment or drug dealing.

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By | 2016-11-01T14:20:23+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Charter School Diaries|0 Comments

About the Author:

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

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