What to do When Educators at Your School Still Believe in a Punitive Approach To Discipline

While traveling around the country and facilitating trainings, I get to meet extraordinary educators. Not only do we share a day or two of laughter, tears, stories, and strategies, but we stay connected through email, the app, webinars, and the Facebook group.

Last week I received an email from an amazing person who attended the Generation Wellness Training earlier this year and I feel that many of you may be going through the same thing, so I felt it was necessary to share:

Amazing Human:
Hi Lyndsay,
 
I currently am working at ________________________. I have become frustrated facilitated lunch detention because a lot of staff members are far more interested in punishing bad behavior, rather than taking time to connect with students or teach them strategies on how to be successful the next time after making a mistake. I have also noticed that some teachers are quick to punish the same students who are labeled as "troubled" or a "handful."
 
I'm bringing this to your attention because I am trying to figure out a way, or many ways, to teach students strategies from their mistakes so that they can progress and not be making the same mistakes, but also want to figure out how to teach mindfulness and help influence change towards teachers perceptions about our students who just need to be heard and supported.
 
Do you have any strategies on how I could make this possible so that the division between "students and staff" is reduced? I speak to students individually on things they could work on, but if I do not help change the perception of others, as a whole, unfortunately our same students will never progress.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
 
Take care, stay awesome, and hope to hear from you soon.
 
Lyndsay:
First of all, thank you for taking the time to listen, help, and teach students how to cope with stress and new skills that will help them thrive in school and in life. The work you're doing is so important.
 
I have experienced the same things that you discussed above with staff members who believe in "consequences only". It can be disheartening to watch and the only way to change the reality is to change the belief. The best way to change a belief is through awareness. So, the most empowering thing you can do is to ask your principal for 15 minutes at a staff meeting and teach staff members about the brain and how it functions under stress. They need to understand neuroscience and trauma-informed practices. This is the only way that I have seen a shift in paradigm. Unfortunately, if we teach staff tools with no "why" or "research" they may think it's "out there" or that they don't have time. But, when they learn how the brain functions, how stress/trauma impacts learning, and why this is the foundation to learning, we see change.
 
Do you feel comfortable asking your principal about this?
 
Your actions matter and I truly believe that you can lead this movement at your school.
 
Let me know if you have any other questions. Keep shining!
 
Amazing Human:
Thank you so much Lyndsay for your insight and suggestions. I do have a close enough relationship with my principal to mention this idea and receive some feed back. My goal is to also be a part of the PBIS team so help at least plant the seed of change and introducing the idea of researched based practices and ideas towards helping all students learn and not just the ones who face trauma. I know I may not change everyone's perception towards students and teaching, but if I can get a few more staff members on board that may be the start needed to make a real difference within the community. I will also let you know if we are available and willing for a GW training because your training, as well as insight from both you and Johnny really gave me a different perspective on life and working with people in general and think anyone who attends your training will be that much better.
 
I will keep you updated with what happens because you are awesome and an inspiration to me.
 
Lyndsay:
Yes, you've got this! You are changing so many people's lives... students and (some) staff. Here's what I always try to remember when teaching, speaking, or in life... Don't give your energy to the people turning away or challenging your idea, they just aren't ready to hear the message yet. Focus on the students and staff who are soaking it in and begging for more. Otherwise it can begin to feel like a lost cause. 
 
A few weeks ago, I was presenting in _________________ and the training completely bombed (for some). Not because the material was different, but because 15% of the audience wasn't ready to hear it. Two people of those 15% were blatantly disrespectful and said horrible things in front of the group and rolled their eyes constantly. This was a shock to me because usually at least 99% of the audience is totally engaged and feeling excited, empowered, and ready to participate. It was so hard not to let that get me during the presentation, but if I would have caved in and matched their negativity, I would have let the 85% down who were ready for the message and wanted tools. I shed a few tears after that presentation because it saddens me that people can be so mean, but then I reminded myself of "my why"- all of the students out there that need these tools. I woke up and did it all over again the next day with excitement. 
 
I share this because this work is hard. It's challenging going against the grain. It would be so easy to quit and become silent. It takes dedication to change a system for the good of our staff and students. But, someone has to do it. And that gets to be you! You've got this!
 
Amazing Human:
That is such a great reminder and story towards my cause. I feel the same way sometimes in that I get so caught up in trying to make a change I forget not everyone is ready for that change and feel discouraged when change doesn't happen. What may seem like a no brainer and a must for me is not to someone else and being okay with that is sometimes the hardest part. 
 
I believe life is all about timing and if you are on the right path things kind of fall into place whether you are going through hardships or not, and I believe having this conversation with you is leading towards where I am supposed to be. The end goal may not be clear at the moment, but with positivity, persistence, and the right support we all can find our way out there.
 
Thank you for your continuing support. You really are an inspiration.
 
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We all get to be an advocate for students who are not always heard, for social/emotional skills being the foundation of learning, and for supporting our staff with the latest practices based in neuroscience, trauma, and self-care. If you're reading this, please know that your efforts matter and your actions make a difference. We see you and we're cheering you on!

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