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Tamara Has a Problem

Tamara, a 6th grade student in Amherst, NY, told me about her school day yesterday. I was visiting her school principal and stumbled upon her sad face in the crowded hallway of other faces walking by me. Tamara was pretty upset about something and felt comfortable chatting with me and her principal. Well, quite honestly, she was VERY upset about something:

She received “lunch detention.”

Never receiving any kind of “detention” before, Tamara told me all of the simple details. Darius and Roger, two of Tamara’s classmates, were misbehaving in the Cafeteria, so Tamara’s teacher, Mr. Buckley, gave the entire class “lunch detention.”

Lunch detention is where a teacher takes a student (or in this case, the entire class) to his or her classroom and the students must sit silently and eat for 25 minutes. What upset Tamara even more was that Mr. Buckley told the class that everyone was going to have detention because he was sick and tired of getting bad reports—even if it was only about 2 or 3 students. And, he was NOT going to talk about his decision with anyone. He was firm about assigning lunch detention for everyone and “that was that.”

Tamara felt that lunch detention for the entire class was unfair, but not being able to talk with her teacher and speak up about the unfairness was REALLY unfair, as well.

I’m sure you have heard similar stories about student discipline—where adult frustration leads to unfair decisions where power is exerted over students in ways that beat them down.

Just from this one incident, this tiny episode, Tamara doesn’t feel comfortable talking to her teacher about much of anything anymore.

In a world where students should be able to advocate for themselves, in a world where student voices should matter, and in a world where every single thing that we do will either turn on or turn off our students, in what ways can we re-think any of our methods that might cripple our students so we do not kill their spirit or turn them off to the point of no return?

Tamara’s principal actually mediated a nice conversation with Tamara and Mr. Buckley in order for her to tell him how she felt. A relationship appears to be mended.

See, it’s all of the little things that might really be big things to our students.

We have to pay close attention to everything or we will lose our kids.

What story can you share with others that might save student spirit and

activate student voice? Use the hashtag #LetStudentsSpeak to share your story.

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