The Dreaded Principal’s Office

The dreaded principal’s office. We all remember it from childhood. Whether you suffered inside one or not, it was a place you probably associated with fear, punishment, and maybe tears. My own principal was an enormous man with a voice to rival James Earl Jones. I don’t recall ever seeing him smile. I recall never wanting to see him. (Unfortunately, I did… and learned my lesson!)

I care very much that those kinds of memories not be generated in any of our students here at Immanuel Christian School!

Here, we have a relationship-based approach to problem-solving. Our discipline policy is strong on grace and light on automatic consequences. We don’t use the word punishment, because it doesn’t capture the heart of discipline. We’re not trying to employ methods and systems that produce an external show of compliance: we seek instead to draw hearts to what matters most. We want our kids to love what is lovely and to seek to be intrinsically-motivated disciples. We think of this as a “shared followership”: we follow Christ and encourage our children to follow him too.

This is the heart of discipline: learning together how to be disciples.

The teachers and I had a great discussion last week about how important it is for them to be using me in their work of shepherding their students. Specifically, we noted together that in our school’s discipline policy, we have a zero-tolerance approach to…

  1. Regular disruption of the classroom
  2. Disrespect to teachers or other persons in authority

(and we’re working to add a point related to choosing not to work during class time)

By “zero tolerance,” we mean that these things will not go unaddressed, and they will not be allowed to persist. A few reminders will be given in class, as the teacher employs some classroom strategies. But if those don’t work, then the students are to come to the principal’s office. This is not a punishment, but an involvement of me in the work of encouraging them in their faith. We talk about the problems and why they happened. I might bring into the equation a consequence – or I might not. It depends very much on how the student responds. In nearly all cases, I consider the matter quickly resolved; confession and forgiveness normally play a part. In some cases, I involve you as the parents, depending on the gravity.

As the teachers and I work to strike the right tone on those zero-tolerance matters, my office may for some of our students come to be a place associated with fear… but I’m praying and working hard to make sure it’s only a holy fear, more like the kind the Bible talks about as the fear of God! Pray for me in this.