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Suspensions: Are We Missing the Teachable Moment?
We don’t have to be teachers to think back
and remember a time when a fellow schoolmate of ours was suspended. We might
have even joked, “I’m sure that Robert is just going to play video games all
Of course, our goal is not to shun a student for misconduct and we are all trying our best. However, out-of-school suspension (OSS) is shown to create a deficit in student learning, negatively impacting success later in life. Also, no lessons or replacement skills are acquired by students through or after OSS to prevent future misconduct.
In a 2011 report, The Council of State Governments showed that a single OSS or expulsion doubles the likelihood of repeating a grade. In addition, in a 2006 review, the American Psychological Association explains that OSS is tied to behavioral problems, detachment from social interaction with peers and adults, and high dropout rates.
Fortunately, there are more positive and effective alternatives to OSS.
Some are now using restorative practices so that students are given the chance to learn from their misconduct and reconcile with the victim (if applicable). This approach can promote greater empathetic growth, help students to be more understanding of one another, and build a stronger family-like community within the school.
Although this method could work, it can be a tad optimistic or idealistic. Say a meeting is held after an incident of bullying. The victim, for example, might feel intimidated, leading him to leave out part of the story or might be embarrassed to express certain feelings in front of the student who teased or hurt him in the first place. This can negate the purpose of the entire meeting since feelings are not completely shared and issues are, therefore, not being completely rectified.
Another alternative, in-school suspension (ISS), also does not have the same impact as OSS since students are kept in school, keeping up with their schoolwork; meanwhile, administrators, teachers, and counselors can find the source of this student’s problem.
On the other hand, there must always be a teacher or staff member monitoring this student or students, adding more stress to an already busy job. Since this is not daycare, the responsible person or persons must monitor and talk to the student if a real lesson is to be learned and real change is to be achieved.
As teachers, our actions taken in difficult situations are in the best interest of our students as we are constantly striving to create a safe environment where our students can learn and grow. Thus, providing students suffering from emotional, behavioural, or social problems the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and mend their relationships is key if we wish for their behaviour to improve.
There are always challenges in every situation and sometimes things are easier said than done. All the same, this might be exactly the change required of us if we wish for these students’ grades and behaviour to improve and dropout rates to decline.
Difficult roads can lead to better destinations.
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