The Schools' Behavior Problems

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The school has its share of behavior problems.  All schools do. My high school principal, a retired U.S. Marine major, fit the bill as the perfect person for the job.  Barrel-chested and tough talking, he made us all sit up and take notice when he spoke. He was used to being obeyed so those that differed had him to deal with.  In his office was a large wicker rocker that he used as a leaning post. If a student was sent to him and had been to see him before he had a rolodex file on his desk. Too many visits noted and "son, lean over the chair" moment, complete with a paddle I thought was the size of an elephant's trunk. 

I got to visit Mr. Leader a couple more times then necessary and he noted in his rolodex that one more and my time over the chair was to be. Well, I got to do that visit and got to lean over the chair and got to feel the whack, whack of that paddle.  I think it stung for a week. I never went back.

After high school we became friends. He was in Rotary as was my own father and feared then that he might share me with him. He never did and I honored that in the man. The real issue is why did I behave and get sent out of the class? Good question and one should read Rhonda Thurman's article. Worth reading. The schools have a problem with behavioral disordered children but something is missing for so many of these kids that come to school woefully unprepared and then expected to be students.

Another story, true story.  Second grader at one of the inner city schools. Happened to be in the building seeing another student and the 2nd grade teacher asked me to stop in before I left. I did and witnessed something that frightened her and her entire class. She had been working with one boy's behaviors and progress was being made  she said. This day she was to present a new reading concept to his group, about 7-8 students. The explosion and that is what it seemed like happened so quickly. The boy stood up and with one motion picked up his chair and threw at the class sitting at their desks knocking down a desk and injuring a student. So angry was this child that after the chair incident threw himself to the floor and began crying. The child was asked to do something in reading he could not do. Extreme case. In a way it is extreme but it speaks to the larger issue of reading readiness and behaviors. 

My student population largely of conduct disordered children represented that group of children that find reading difficult and often exhibit behaviors in class that disrupt. What is done is even more tragic. Suspend.  Accomplishes nothing and further worsens already negative behavior.  Those same schools that have the worst reading levels are likely the worst schools for suspensions and poor academic progress. The myth, silent mostly, in its belief that certain classes of people cannot learn is a tragic continuation of what is society's excuse for not educating. We cannot change what is until we admit that the school model does not work for all. This minority group of students perpetuates failure and society blames. 

Nothing will change until the attitudes of society's leaders make the change and that change begins with a new and quite novel approach to educating.  I have shared those ideas and one novel experiment now in it's second year shows promise but must be year around. The Chattanooga 2.0 Kindergarten prep program should be expanded to all the inner city elementary school. Offer such a program to new moms and eventually the program will succeed. Every child ages 3-4 should be enrolled prior to that critical first few years in school. Direct and constant monitoring should be done and even when enrolled in the public school. Families should be rewarded as the child's critical first teacher. Chattanooga could be a the model for the nation's schools if only. Where is the leadership?

Robert Brooks


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