One justification I often hear for punitive or zero tolerance responses to behavioural challenges in schools is that it prepares students for the realities of “the big bad world”.
I can understand the sentiment. There certainly are punishments for adults who break rules and laws. So, the notion seems sound that, if kids get away with poor choices now, we’re setting them up for future retribution from bosses or police who’ll have less sympathy for them than teachers do.
But, is that really true?
Do we always get caught? Do authority figures never let us “get away with it”? Is the big bad world really a system relentless crimes and punishments?
Consider the potential list of unpunished misdemeanors on your own rap sheet. Have you ever:
- Drifted 3km over the speed limit without getting caught? Even in a school zone?
- Been given a warning for parking illegally?
- Thrown a pen in your bag from the school stationery cupboard?
- Been late for yard duty?
- Failed to finish your reports on time?
- Told a white lie to a partner about how much something you bought really cost?
- Thrown a sickie?
- Stolen somebody else’s food from the staff room fridge in a moment of extreme hunger?
Didn’t you also get away with a lot of these offences? And aren’t you still an ok person?
Maybe the big bad world isn’t quite as big and bad as we imagined. And just maybe, the best way to prepare kids for it is to foster the abundant positive qualities in them.
Because just maybe people who are mostly empathic, responsible, respectful, kind and honest navigate the big bad world better than those who’ve spent years practicing the dark art of not getting caught.
And if that examination of the world is closer to the truth, what would now be the implications for your school?
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. NSW/Queensland Teachers and School Leaders … it ain’t too late to catch our amazing workshops. In the next two weeks we’ll be working with you on Restorative Classrooms Strong Classrooms, Leading School Culture, Leading Whole School Behaviour Improvement and Leading Teacher/Staff Wellbeing. Click here and grab your seat now.
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