I was recently asked to write a 500-word article on school discipline as a non-coercive process. The short essay appeared in Leading the Journey, a newsletter for SDA school administrators. As a result, a few of you may have already read it; I reprint it here for those who haven’t –
Sometimes I wonder if I make too big a deal out of the Choice Theory thing, or if it is even a thing at all. Doubts and stinkin thinkin seem to lurk. Yet while distracted by these temptations to doubt, I soon come back to what, for me, are unchangeable realities. These realities include –
- God places an exceptionally high value on love and freedom.
- He designed and created humans for free will and internally driven choices.
- He died to redeem us, to restore us, and to preserve our freedom to choose.
- The sanctified life is about our becoming, through Jesus, loving, powerful, and joyful self-managers.
Regardless of where my thoughts and feelings may want to take me, these truths are not going away. These are the truths that jolt me out of my occasional sulking and doubting.
Adventist schools have a tremendous opportunity and, indeed, responsibility to teach students what it means and what it looks like to be sanctified self-managers. Whether we’re talking about how learning is organized, or about how classroom Procedures are implemented, or about how discipline is applied when serious infractions occur, students need to be shown how to evaluate their own behavior and make choices for improvement.
For students to gain this important (eternal) life skill, Adventist schools must let go of management strategies based on rewards and retribution and instead pursue strategies based on redemption and restoration. Reward and retribution (punishment) strategies are tools for controlling students from the outside, even though humans were designed for internal control. Attempting to externally control students is like putting regular gasoline into a diesel engine. The sputtering results are predictable.
We tend to like students that comply, even if it places their ability to self-manage at risk. The prodigal son’s brother was compliant and we can see what that led to. And so our challenge is to outline behavioral standards that are realistic and relevant for kids and then to artfully support them toward achieving their learning and living goals. Redemption and restoration don’t have to be words and concepts only associated with the mysteries of Bible class. Instead, they can be concepts that become very real to students as teachers and principals model the spirit of redemption and provide students with a means to on-going restoration. For instance, when we problem-solve with students do we tell them how it is going to be or do we help them effectively self-evaluate; when students get in trouble do we simply apply a punishment or do we ask them how they are going to resolve the problem?
In the book Education, EGW made a very powerful point when she described that “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one . . .” (p.30) To this end may we each become fully-equipped self-managers and as we do, may we help our students become the same.
The Better Plan workshops this summer at PUC are designed to help educators become fully-equipped self-managers, with the hope that you will then be able to share these insights and skills with students.
The Better Plan 1 June 25-28
The Better Plan 2 July 9-12
Contact Jim Roy for more information on the workshops at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.