Im­prov­ing stu­dent be­hav­ior be­gins with strong fam­i­lies

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Rebecca P. Michela, Wal­dorf

In a re­cent ar­ti­cle, “School board makes rec­om­men­da­tions re­gard­ing dis­ci­pline” (Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, May 12), the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion re­searched dis­ci­pline is­sues in the school sys­tem. Two groups re­ported: the first, about teacher at­tacks and the use of PBIS (Pos­i­tive Be­hav­ior In­ter­ven­tions and Sup­ports); and the se­cond, re­gard­ing the dis­ci­pline code re­sponses to in­frac­tions.

Spokesman for the first group, Bar­bara Palko, said, “We should par­tic­u­larly em­pha­size build­ing re­la­tion­ships and char­ac­ter ed­u­ca­tion.” The se­cond group rec­om­mended “de­vel­op­ing pro­grams that pro­mote ‘self-aware­ness of pride, hu­mil­ity and re­spect’ … that is on a more per­sonal, hands-on level.”

May I re­spect­fully suggest that strong, in­tact fam­i­lies are the most ef­fec­tive teach­ers of these prin­ci­ples and values? Where is it more “per­sonal and hands-on” than the fam­ily? The fam­ily is where chil­dren learn what is es­sen­tial to be happy, how to share, re­solve dif­fer­ences, make peace and for­give, work to­ward goals, and re­spect the rights of oth­ers. Chil­dren are daily wit­nesses to the amount of sac­ri­fice it takes to have a fam­ily where healthy re­la­tion­ships and be­hav­ior are fos­tered and daily vic­tims where such re­la­tion­ships are non-ex­is­tent. This is where the prin­ci­ples and be­hav­iors that are re­quired for so­ci­ety are taught and fos­tered.

I re­al­ize in writ­ing this that there are many chil­dren in the Charles County school sys­tem who are not the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a fam­ily that can ef­fec­tively teach them these habits. I also re­al­ize there are many fam­i­lies where day-to-day liv­ing is about all they can han­dle. How­ever, that does not ac­count for a nearly 70 per­cent in­crease in at­tacks on teach­ers and the ram­pant in­ci­vil­ity in schools not re­ported in this ar­ti­cle. It is not the job of the school sys­tem to act for the par­ents in teach­ing man­ners, values and work ethic but in­creas­ingly, it does fall to the schools to do ex­actly that in­stead of read­ing, writ­ing, arith­metic, etc.

Can the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion join with oth­ers to pro­mote pro­grams that will main­tain and sup­port the fam­i­lies of its stu­dents? Where in the board’s dis­cus­sion did the fam­i­lies of stu­dents reg­is­ter as a source of de­fus­ing the prob­lem be­fore it starts rather than a “last gasp” at­tempt to in­volve the par­ents? Where are “at-risk” stu­dents and fam­i­lies iden­ti­fied? “Par­ent shad­ow­ing” may be the lat­est tech­nique to keep chil­dren in school in­stead of sus­pend­ing them, but it is at the wrong end of the process. Par­ents are at the ones charged with teach­ing their chil­dren to be lov­ing, serv­ing, obe­di­ent and law-abid­ing cit­i­zens wher­ever they live.

This is not just a job for the school sys­tem. Faith-based com­mu­ni­ties, so­cial ser­vice pro­grams and net­works, and fam­i­lies them­selves can all play a part in sup­port­ing and strength­en­ing their in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies and fam­ily in gen­eral. This, in turn, will im­prove be­hav­ior in schools, in pub­lic places, and in so­ci­ety at large. We are at great risk if we do not main­tain and strengthen the fam­ily.

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