The dreaded principalâ€™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 donâ€™t recall ever seeing him smile. I recall never wanting to see him. (Unfortunately, I didâ€¦ 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 donâ€™t use the word punishment, because it doesnâ€™t capture the heart of discipline. Weâ€™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 â€œshared followershipâ€: 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 schoolâ€™s discipline policy, we have a zero-tolerance approach toâ€¦
- Regular disruption of the classroom
- Disrespect to teachers or other persons in authority
(and weâ€™re working to add a point related to choosing not to work during class time)
By â€œzero tolerance,â€ 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 donâ€™t work, then the students are to come to the principalâ€™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 â€“ 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 fearâ€¦ but Iâ€™m praying and working hard to make sure itâ€™s only a holy fear, more like the kind the Bible talks about as the fear of God! Pray for me in this.