Yah… I got in some “trouble” this year. The quote, “I have two moods: 1. Worry about everything 2. YOLO” that’s floating around the teacher instagram world was basically my life this year. I definitely spent the months of May and June in the total YOLO phase. Prior to that, I was worried about making other people happy, trying to keep relationships at peace, and staying silent to avoid conflict. March and April brought on much needed growth and experiences that pushed me to places I never thought I would venture too. You never know where your roots are planted until you’re forced to withstand a storm.
This year I fell privy to some punitive consequences and found myself whole heartily feeling where our challenging students are coming from. In fact, I had a really meaningful conversation with one of my fifth graders about why some consequences don’t work for them… this is what we decided: when consequences 1) don’t have an logical reasoning for why that’s the “next step” 2) are used to foster compliance and fear from individuals and 3) don’t actually address the real reason for the behavior or action… all they do is set fire to the rain.
I could honestly feel my worry transform into “oh yah? This is how this is going to go? Bring it.” Given, I felt extremely wronged in almost all the situations. If you still believe that punitive consequence will change behavior, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. The punitive consequences I experienced this year turned into an #empowertrip for my students… but for our students, they turn into an empowertrip to get their needs met or get “revenge.” Each consequence teaches us something— the punitive ones often don’t teach what the enforcer would like to be teaching. Each time makes the blow easier to handle and you truly get to a point where you don’t care anymore… or you feel so wronged that you research everything—rules, laws, evidence-based practices, and seek to understand how to professionally bring-it.
In reflecting, I am so glad I was able to experience these situations this year. The bandaid needed to be ripped off for me to do the work I believe in. I honestly wish it would had happened sooner. Just to back up a little bit— I am a total rule follower and believe in doing things the right way. I have been a rule follower because I don’t want to get in trouble AND I believe rules are created for a reason, thus they should be followed… and I never once intentionally rebelled or broken a rule in the professional environment. The hard part was having to decide if I was going to let other peoples opinions and perspectives create a cloud of fear that would follow me into silence.
I spent weeks crying my eyes out but as soon as that bell rang at 8:40 and my students walked through the door, my game face was on. Sometimes I would tell my kids I was frustrated and hurt and had spent the morning crying because being a teacher (like being a kid) is hard… but as they can see, I’m here, I’m kind to them, and I’m powering on. Because that is the teaching they need… and the teacher I believe myself to be. I chose to kick the cloud and become a more resilient educator because of it.
I could go into detail about what caused me to get “in trouble” but… I don’t think that would be a positive experience for anyone to read and it only shares my side of the story… and there were multiple incidences 🙂 Maybe if the accusations actually matched my truth, I would be writing a different story…but that’s the deal with our kids. You can’t assume you know their truth or their reasons for WHY they are saying or acting a certain way. If the accusation is false or the consequence too punitive, it’s not going to work. It’s only going to damage your relationship with your students. Each experience this year, I felt wronged. How many times are kids doing something and your assumption doesn’t match their deep truth or their why? I believe that’s the honest reality of why consequence don’t work on kids with challenging behavior… because people punish them based off their personal hypothesis or solely rule based and not the child’s/students truth or reason or perspective.
With punitive consequences, we have to stop making everything about us and start making it only about the teacher/child/student. If we do that, we will get to the why and build room for the positive change we would like to see… not repeating the cycle…or causing a once passive aggressive teacher to become professionally assertive and brave 🙂
Here’s the deal: perspective matters… and it’s not only your perspective that matters. If all perspectives aren’t heard, valued, and attempted at being understood… that’s when one can set rain on fire. Teachers and students alike… and with everyone’s different experiences and perspectives, you won’t always know what you will get.
I know I’ve shared this quote that was shared with me before, but it’s so true: “you will never lose sleep by doing what you believe is best for your students. You lose sleep when you do what you know isn’t what’s best for them.” It’s a fact. It’s true. 100%.