It is very hard to believe it is November already. Before you know it, it will be holiday time and then we will all be ringing in the New Year! Time sure does fly by. I think the older I have gotten has enabled me to live and enjoy each day a little better. Rather than waiting for the next great event to come, I have come to be able to realize that it is important to live each day as if it is our last. On that note, I reflect upon my first three months with great joy and thankfulness. I am lucky enough to come to work at one of the most amazing places in the world each day. Great teaching and learning takes place here. With Thanksgiving around corner, I am truly grateful to be the principal and superintendent here at Shelter Island. I am grateful that I live and work in your community and have the privilege of spending each day with your children.
To change courses slightly, I realized that the faculty and students know this, but you may not yet (unless you have received a call from me). I have taken over discipline this year. I have a great deal of experience with this as a teacher and administrator. In speaking with some of the children I used to teach here, they seem to remember me giving out more lunch detentions than I do! I am sure the reality is somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, this is the process if there is a disciplinary issue:
- The vast majority of discipline is dealt with by the teacher in the classroom.
- If there is a behavior that is beyond normal classroom discipline, the teacher or staff member will write a discipline referral.
- I receive the discipline referral and will see your child.
- I will investigate the incident and make a decision as to a consequence.
- I will call you either with your child in my office or directly after.
- If I am not in the office and there is an emergency disciplinary issue that needs immediate handling, both Mr. Gulluscio and Mrs. Rylott are available to intervene.
I can tell you discipline is not the favorite part of my job. It is, however, one of the most important. No matter what the issue, it is important for your child to be treated with dignity and respect. Similar to teaching, I will treat your children like I would treat my own. The result of discipline is to help students make better choices. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) plays a large role in this. Our teachers will try to work with your children each day so that they know how to regulate their feelings and emotions so that there are hopefully never any disciplinary issues. We can validate your children’s feelings and emotions, even when their actions are not appropriate. We can authenticate the emotion while also not approving of an inappropriate action. With all of that said on discipline, the students here are some of the nicest children that you could ever meet.
Here are some tips from Scholastic on discipline at home:
Behavior Problems: The Six Steps of Discipline
Fortunately, most disciplinary opportunities unfold in a reliable series of steps for both you and your child. The following will help you know what to expect when your child exhibits behavior problems, and help guide your decision in how to handle it — regardless of what your child has done.
Your child breaks a rule or a value that's important to your family.
If your child tells you what she did wrong, then you know she's already learned right from wrong. She now needs help learning to control her impulses and to fully understand the consequences of what she's done. If you catch her in the act, you need to find out why. Was she too out of control to hide her behavior problems from you? Or did she need you to find out?
If she hides what she's done, you also need to find out why. Does she know the consequences and fear them? Does she fear facing your disapproval and her own guilty feelings? Did she really think she could get away with it, or does she just need to be sure she's keeping you on your toes?
This is where your choices begin. You may need your own time-out to calm down. If you seem shocked, your child will be frightened by her own behavior and, in turn, have a harder time facing it. She won't be able to learn her lesson until she can. Often, you will need to soothe and settle your child before she can confront her own responsibility — her guilty feelings and your angry ones. If you bear down too hard or move in too soon, you're likely to hear, "But I didn't do it!"
Instead of saying, "How could you steal that toy? And lie to me on top of it?" you might offer your child a chance to explain. Ask, "Would you like to tell me what this is really all about?" If she lies or minimizes, you can insist, "Are you sure that's what happened? Is that really what you want me to think?"
If you think your child will lie before she can face the truth, you can help her by saying, "Look, we both know you took the toy. It's awfully tough to face it when you know you did something you shouldn't have."
Your child may fall back on denial, which can take the form of lying to avoid punishment and the fear and remorse that go with it. Now is the time to help your child address her feelings about the behavior problems and the consequences she is expecting. You can help her work through her emotions by saying, "It's brave to admit that you've done something wrong." Offer reassurance that the purpose of consequences is not to hurt her, but to help her learn how to stop herself from doing whatever it is again.
Consequences and reparations
The long-term goal is for your child to learn to consider the consequences of behavior problems before she acts, and to care enough to stop herself before she does. Consequences are most effective when they are closely tied to the misbehavior and are solutions to the problems the misbehavior has led to. For example, if your child steals a toy, she should call her friend to apologize and return the toy. She could also temporarily lend her friend a favorite toy, so that she can see what it feels like to part with a prized possession.
Fair consequences focus on the lesson to be learned. Consequences that don't do this leave your child feeling distracted by her bitterness and confusion and will undermine her belief in your fairness and, eventually, in your authority.
Your child will not learn from her mistakes unless she can also discover her potential for better behavior. If she has truly faced her mistake, she will need to be forgiven for it.
Taking one more turn of pages, I would like to highlight something truly special that happened here at the Shelter Island School. Emma Gallagher and Lauren Gurney made a truly unprecedented scientific discovery here in the Science Labs at the Shelter Island School. They discovered and published a protein in the protein database. This is unheard of for high school students. It is especially edifying to see these young ladies be role models to future scientists. Kudos to their teacher, Mr. Dan Williams, who works tirelessly with his students. He works very hard to make sure our students have all that they need and that students on our island can compete and advance in the field of Science.
I would like to highlight one other teacher in this newsletter – Mr. Pete Miedema. Many people do not know the kind acts that he performs because he does not speak of them himself. I have heard two of these stories through the grapevine – he opens the gym on a pretty regular basis for young and older students on his own time. The students are able to play and have something to do. He does this quietly and without acclaim. Another parent also told me that one evening she questioned why her kids came home late. The students responded, Mr. Miedema had us moving wood at a senior on the island’s house. Is there a more teachable moment?
I am sure much good happens at many schools. It just seems like our school is a true community made up of a staff of people who care. I will continue to highlight staff and good deeds in this newsletter. As I always say, I am so happy and feel so lucky to be back with you. Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.
Brian Doelger, Ed.D.