Office as Punishment Vs Understanding

As administrators, we are often responsible for disciplining children. When students misbehave, they are often sent to the office.  There are many ways administrators can deal with children when they are sent to the office.  The office can be seen as a venue of punishment or of care and understanding.


Office as One of  Punishment

In this case, students are sent to the office to be punished or reprimanded for something they have done. The students are very likely talked to in a stern manner and are often made to sit in isolation from others. The administration in this type of office is often viewed as the “enemy” – the one who doles out this punishment, by these students, and likely their parents as well. Unfortunately, when students, who are having difficulty, are presented with this type of environment, they often shut down and, as a result, do not really take in what is being said or discussed with them.

Often, educators (both teachers and administrators) in this type of climate may not take the time needed to understand what is happening with the student that may contribute to the behaviour that has got this student to the office in the first place. Much of what is being decided with these children is done in a reactive manner, instead of being proactive.

Office As One of Care and Understanding

In this case, students are sent to the office for a number of reasons – when children are having difficulty, but also, when children may be thriving and may need acknowledgement for a job well done.  This office isn’t seen as a negative place to visit.

When students are sent to this kind of office when they are having some difficulty, things are different.  For the most part, students are talked to in a gentle manner and are shown mutual respect, care, and understanding.  Administration is sure to give the students the time they need in order to try to understand what is happening with the child on this particular day or week, or month, or …  The student’s challenges are seen as something much greater than this one incident on this one particular day. This type of administrator will do what is necessary to make the child feel comfortable enough to talk about what has happened.

The administration in the caring and understanding office try to understand the child. They realize that these individuals are, in fact, just kids.  Yes, they may have struggles, but these administrators realize that coming down hard on these children isn’t going to do anything to make the situation better, and, in fact, may make matters much, much worse.

These understanding administrators strives to have the schoolhouse remain a place where students feel comfortable, welcome, accepted, and, above-all safe – both physically and emotionally. These administrators seek out ways to ensure the child’s success, not to aid in their failure. Student’s future is considered and their resiliency nurtured.  Above all, these administrators believe in the success and future of all children and will do what they can to ensure their success.

What type of office is in your school?

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

4 thoughts on “Office as Punishment Vs Understanding

  1. Tia, would go further to ask: what kind of culture does your school have around discipline? I have been part of both cultures in which there are a constant stream of students being “sent to the office” and those in which the admin are more rarely in the office and the students are rarely sent there.

    You are right, the “office” has been a place of punishment in school’s past. Some parents still fear the office. And you are right that the office is also a place of teaching and understanding vs punishment. What I hope is that the office becomes a place that is just like any other place in the school… A place in which kids are not sent but choose to go. If a child is struggling with behaviour, the admin cover the class while the teacher works with the struggling children.

    I hear this often, “the office should not be a reward”. I would agree (and from your post, I think you do too)… Nor should the office should be a place of punishment. If the conversation has to happen in the office it is often far too late and with someone who was not even there… It is the opposite of relationship-building.

    Our school has made great steps away from “go to the office” and moved in the direction you discuss. The challenge for me is that I don’t want to even be there… I want to be in the classes supporting students and staff.

    I wonder what the culture would be if “Mr. Wejr is never even in the office… He is always in classes”.

    I know this is not the intended direction of your post but it really got me thinking about how (again) I need to be in classes more. 🙂

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and reflection. I could not agree more with what you are saying. Yes, it would be great if the “office” could move toward more of a collaboration between teachers and admin, where the people with the strongest relationships with these children (the teachers) work with them through the challenges they may be having. These relationships are key in making a real difference in students who may be displaying challenging behaviour.

    As you mentioned, it is difficult to build relationships with students if one only sees the students during these challenging times. I would agree that admin being in the classrooms more would help with building these relationships and would be beneficial when “times get tough”. Being outside on supervision so much this year has really helped build those relationships as well.

    It’s all a work in progress. That is why it is so important to reflect, share, and change the way we do things in the effort to meet the needs of more students (and teachers and families).

    Again, thanks for your comment,

  3. It does seem silly that the administration could wave some sort of magic stick (pun sort of unintended) and make the problem go away in the absence of the teacher, when he or she wasn’t even involved in the incident.

    1. Mme Samson,

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment on my blog post.

      It really is a way of thinking that has been the “answer” for discipline issues in the past. If we really want to change the way things are with kids, we need to look at how we can handle things differently. It’s a slow process for some, but we continue to work on it.

      Thanks again,

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