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Discipline that’s designed to be a learning experience

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

At Lakeside School, there’s no such thing as simply being “sent to the principal’s office.”

Of course, from time to time, students must be removed from the classroom, if only to keep everyone’s learning from being disrupted.

But doing so sets in motion a process designed to make this a learning experience for the student.

“It’s meant to be a tool,” says Lakeside’s behavior management coordinator, Adam Sheaffer. “It’s about restoration.”

A teacher asking a student to leave the classroom will then immediately call and notify one of the school’s behavior managers about what happened. At least one behavior manager is always on duty.

The behavior manager then meets the student in what is called the “resolve room,” where the two dissect what happened and arrive at a “contract” that will enable the student to return to the classroom.

If the student is too excited to deal with the incident rationally, he or she is encouraged to use an exercise bike or walk around an adjacent track. The student’s heart rate is monitored to indicate when he or she is calm enough to return to class. Heart rate is an indication of whether the student’s cortex is in control.

“We have to help a kid regulate before they process,” Sheaffer says. “We have things to engage their whole brain, to get to a part of the brain that’s rational.

“My assumption is that the kids have never had a healthy reconciliation model in their lives. You have to take ownership. If they don’t identify what happened, they don’t move on.”

Sometimes, the process raises questions of whether the teacher overreacted or could have handled the situation better, Sheaffer says.

“They’re not used to hearing that an authority figure could have done something differently. It takes us away from being a cop.”

Did you miss Part 3 of our series on the Lakeside School and its approach to trauma-informed education? Click here.

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