Discipline Isn’t What You Do to a Student, but What You Do for Them.

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The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids... Discipline.This week I had the opportunity to visit with a retired principal. The fact that he made it to retirement gives me hope. And makes me a little jealous.

He has survived an entire career of board meetings, parent concerns, athletic issues, graduations, field trips, bus trouble, thousands of Mondays, etc.

I had lots of questions for him about his career and how education has changed over the years. It seemed that most of our discussion centered on discipline. It is amazing how the methods for keeping students in line and respectful have changed over the last 30 years.

Turns out 20 years ago you could slam a student into a locker and their parents wouldn’t sue the school district; who knew? I wrote this little nugget of information down, so I wouldn’t forget.

“Lucky Retired Guy” told me as he gets older his memory tends to focus on all of the good things that happened during his career. He seldom spends time remembering incidents when he had to discipline a student, or even hand out a suspension.

He says the only time he thinks about these situations is when a former student brings them to his attention.

Students who graduated (maybe) years ago come up to him and are excited to share a story or experience about how he disciplined them. This may include when he did one or more of the following to them: paddled, detentions, kicked them out of class, kicked them out of school (before graduation rates), suspensions, expulsions, or corrected them in the hallway (by corrected, I mean yelled).

Retired Guy says he always try’s to act like he remembers these incidents, but most of the time he doesn’t have the faintest recollection of what they are talking about.

He has long forgotten what happened with a particular student.

No matter the situation, it made an impression on the student. But for him it was only a split second in a long career. And more likely, a very small part of what had been a very busy day (if you don’t believe me, try and recall everything you did 3 Thursdays ago).

The one thing that amazes him is the former students who walk up and want to talk. It isn’t the valedictorian or the student council president; it is the boy who got in trouble in shop class or the girl who was involved in a fight during lunch.

Just for the record; girls’ fights are a thousand times worse than boys’ fights (and they seem to hold a grudge for 2 weeks past forever).

The students he had to discipline consistently are the same ones who want to walk up and visit.

He thinks this is the biggest surprise of his retirement. How these students remember him; not as a mean old principal, but as someone who wasn’t afraid to correct them if it was needed.

So it may be true. Kids want discipline. Even when they act like they don’t.

They can thrive when there are boundaries set for them. The only catch is that the boundaries must be fair, consistent, and enforced.

Try and remember this the next time you have to discipline your kids or students in school. And make sure you remind them that one day they will thank you for the structure you are providing them.

Someday. Not today or tomorrow. Or in the next 5 years. But someday.

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11 Responses to “Discipline Isn’t What You Do to a Student, but What You Do for Them.”


  1. Tim Geoghegan
    on Apr 20th, 2008
    @ 8:46 am

    Great post.

    Thanks.


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  10. Assistant P.
    on Dec 6th, 2009
    @ 2:23 pm

    You are kinda of mean. I like it.


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