1. Some kids are beyond reach. Discuss.
2. No kid is beyond reach, but schools can’t do it alone and our society isn’t committed to doing everything it would take to truly help these kids, so for all intents and purposes, from the point of view of the school, they are beyond reach. Discuss.
3. All kids are within reach. Failure to reach these students is failure of the imagination and commitment of the school administration, staff, and classroom teachers. Discuss.
4. We’re rattling around in a box of our own making. How to get out? Time to blast this thing wide open with some new ideas. What’s old is working so-so but not well. Where can I get a paradigm shift? Discuss.
5. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. School culture is bigger than one classroom or hallway. Children have baggage. Discuss.
6. When you stop rattling and look at the box, you see the cracks in the walls. Investment. What have we done to invest the 65-75% of kids who don’t stand out in any major way, behaviorally or academically? The swing voters, so to speak. Is there a place in our school for more than behaviorism? What about a little of this? Do we have goals that speak to children? Do they have goals? Yeah, sure, we set goals, but do they have any power?
7. Looking at the cracks in the box, again: Everyone talks a good game about “teaching kids to be good people” but what does it all add up to? What does that teaching look like? Is it happening in advisory? I basically told my advisees today that they are hypocrites, who set nice-sounding little goals and talk about why it’s important not to be bullies, but then on the way out, trip someone intentionally. (I’m not feeling very nice this week). They didn’t disagree. When does the touchy-feely become real? Cross that fuzzy boundary and start to mean something? And why is it that when someone suggested to someone more important than me that we get some professional development on this stuff, on peer mediation, on running really meaningful advisories, the response was: no one should have to teach you how to care. Oh. Well then. But just because you can keep a classroom of kids more-or-less safe and on-task doesn’t mean you know how to do the longer-term work that reduces rather than just suppresses the violence. What does it mean, teaching kids to be better people? Show me that. Show me that when you’re on a mean block with kids whose parents occasionally say things like, I can’t help him anymore, I’m just waiting for them to take him away from me. He’s ELEVEN. He’s the sweetest child on Earth. What a thing to hear from your mother.
8. My grades are due. I have to work on that instead of this. Anyway, I’m a little stuck. It feels like a puzzle, something to be unraveled. If you crack this code, if you figure out how to break through to the kids, all of them, or most of them all the time and the others most of the time, the world is yours. Anything can happen. But I’m stuck on this side of the code, I can’t see my way through it, resources are scarce, support is there but only for certain kinds of solutions which are a piece of the puzzle but not, in my mind, the solution. I’m supposed to be a leader: what next?