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'Sometimes, the kids need to learn strategies'

The Forde Files No. 207

“The movement to halt classroom suspensions for willful defiance is the manifestation of a broader philosophy that rejects punishment as ineffective and embraces a positive re-direction in response to inappropriate behavior.

“Redirecting children’s behavior is part of the teacher’s job,” Tehachapi Unified School District Superintendent of Schools Larson-Everson said.

“All kids misbehave at one point or another. The positive side of it is the key.

“We use alternate means of correction. PBIS [Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports] focuses on positive rewards for behaving correctly. We focus on helping the kids get skills, habits and behaviors to be successful.

“Sometimes kids need to learn strategies. They get frustrated. Adults know it’s not OK to break things. The kids might color outside the lines and break the crayon [in frustration]. Children’s brains are not developed. They have not learned strategies and behaviors. We teach them through PBIS and AS [alternative strategies].

“We help them identify their feelings and to react in appropriate ways. [They learn] there are other things to do when you are frustrated.

“The PBIS and restorative justice methods stress empathy and making good choices. In a conflict situation, children are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. How does your friend feel after you have knocked down his block castle? How do you make amends? The teacher supports the child in making a choice that will restore good will, and teaches the child how to stop and think.

“The technique empowers the child to make his or her own choices.

“Ideally, the child who knocked down the castle will choose to apologize and help re-build the castle, which generates a much better outcome than punishment.

“Teachers help children learn appropriate ways to talk to other people. In some households, there is not as much engagement in conversation. The language in the home is driven by basic needs – ‘Time to eat. Go to bed.’

“Part of our job is to help kids build social, language and emotional skills. Language is at the heart of that. The average kindergartner comes in with four- to five-thousand words in their vocabulary. Some with more, some with less. It impacts their ability to express themselves and to become a successful reader and writer.”