The Coast News Group

School tries new method of discipline

RANCHO SANTA FE — The staff at the R. Roger Rowe School in Rancho Santa Fe is trying a new way to keep students in line. It is called Positive Discipline. At the March 3 meeting of the school board, Kim Pinkerton, elementary school principal, told the board how this new program works.
“It’s going to change the way kids, teachers and parents treat themselves and others,” Pinkerton said. Its goal is to build an inclusive, learning-friendly classroom.
“We are always trying to do things better than the way we are doing them,” said Superintendent Lindy Delaney.
The new program is a departure from the traditional dominant process of control, rewards and punishments currently used in most schools. It is instead based on empathy, understanding, the perspective of the student, collaborative problem solving, and kind and firm follow-through, she said.
Pinkerton said the discipline is positive but firm.
“You don’t let them walk all over you,” she said.
It is also a new way to teach students to “respect” each other and their teachers in a way different than in the past.
“They can parrot back the buzz words, but are not internalizing them,” she said.
Instead of “respect” being considered obedience and compliance in which dignity and respect of the adult is primary, it instead instills the word “respect” as mutual in which each person is equally worthy of dignity and respect,” she said.
Mistakes are expected and even welcomed.
“But we forgive and move on,” she said. “A misbehaving child is a confused child,” she said.
The process begins with the students who have class meetings to determine their own class rules, how to develop mutual respect, mutual problem solving and practice follow-through with class meetings that take place several times a week. The rules are posted in the classroom.
If someone slips up, shame and blame are avoided and through class meetings, the problems can be solved without taking sides.
“I want them to know they can count on and encourage each other,” she said.
Pinkerton said the new program is being taught in about 12 classrooms at the school at present, but as more teachers are seeing the results are eager to take the training so they can institute it in their own classrooms.
“They are willing to give up their weekends for the training,” she said.
Jim Cimino, board member, thought the school district could do something to help parents get involved with it at home.
Other board members thought that even more teachers could be trained in the program, so that not just a few students have the training as they go through the school.