Because I in no way agreed with the effectiveness of suspending my son as a mode of discipline, and because I wanted him to understand the seriousness of his actions, I came up with my own “punishment”:
[looks up from his knex] “What?”
“You done with all the work your teacher sent home?”
“Since you and I both know that suspension is more like a reward than anything else, I have something else for you to do.”
He eyes me warily.
“I want you to write at least two pages of different endings to this story. What else might have happened–besides Mr. Garza taking them away–if you brought firecrackers to school?”
He looks very puzzled.
“Like what if Kid X had brought another lighter to school and lit them, what might have happened?”
And there was much groaning and moaning, but he got out a piece of paper. (And folded it in half so that he could technically get two pages out of one page worth of writing.)
His list started like so:
- [Kid X] would get expelled.
- There might be a small boom.
- It might make colors.
- the wik might go out.
- it might stop lighting.
- [Kid X] might go to jail
You see what I mean? No idea why bringing firecrackers to school is a problem. So we talk about other possibilities. What if the “wik” just looked like it went out, and a kindergartner picked it up and it blew her hand off, and you had to know that was your fault for the rest of your life? (Totally impossible with a firecracker the size of a birthday candle, I think, but let’s get creative if we can’t be realistic, which clearly we can’t in this district.) And so his list continued:
Etc, etc, etc. Whose consequence better fits the crime? Teaches the kid anything at all?
Not that I would ever want an administrator’s job, or envy this one her’s. But have we failed to teach the difference between discipline and punishment to our principal candidates in college perhaps?