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School is where students learn if they are “Good” or “Bad”

February 8, 2014

 School is where students learn how to function in society. They learn social norms, as to what is acceptable and not acceptable. They learn what it looks likes, feels like, and sounds like to be “smart” and respected as a “contributing” individual in society. They also learn and develop their own self-identity through the interactions they have with peers and adults.

 

When you look at schools in that way, I have one question: how are the systems in your school environment contributing to the positive self-identity of every student? In many schools around the United States there are implicit and explicit systems in place that many people believe are good for everyone. But, are they really?

 

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Many systems, especially in lower grades, include the light system (where you are on green for begin good, red if you did not do well, or yellow if you almost had a good day, but not quite). There are different modifications to this system, but that is the overall idea of the system. There are also systems in schools where students earn stickers, or tickets, or other tangible items for being “good.” In some schools students’ pictures are even displayed as the “smart” or “well-behaved” students in school.  Students’ work is also hung to show who is doing the “best” in the class.

 

But…

 

What is good? What is well behaved? What does it mean to be smart?

 

Everyone reading this has their own opinion and definition for each of those words. But, I would encourage you to look deeper, investigate and reflect on which students are always the ones ending up on “green”? Which of the students are “behaving”? What does that behaving look like, feel like, sound like? Is your definition of “behaving” a direct result of your culture and how you were brought up? Does behaving look different for different races? Does behaving look different for different genders? What do you hear your students or children saying that instigate white, male, middle class power?

 

I am not here to say the light system or PBIS is good or bad. However, I would encourage teachers and especially administrators to look at all the data and understand your students before implementing a system that could be very detrimental to the well being of ALL the students. The students, who are learning how to function in society and are learning if they are “good” people or “bad” people through teacher, administrator, and peer interactions in the small society of school.

 

We, as educators and parents, are here to give our children positive experiences, help them build a strong self-esteem, and break down the barriers of implied class, race, culture, and gender.

 

So, reflect.

 

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