Students and families are important co-creators of the school culture and climate. Furthermore, the way we approach discipline is a critical part of building a happy and more unified school community. I believe this because after thirty five years of being involved with educational institutions as a student, teacher, administrator, and parent, I have experienced first hand the effect that discipline policies can have on student and staff behavior. I have seen some discipline practices push students and parents away to the point of students dropping out, and I have also seen how positive modeling and joy-based practices really impact students. They bring students, parents, and schools closer and more in sync.
I could talk about many aspects of discipline, school culture, and climate, such as behavior management practices, community engagement, positive modeling, and professional development. I would like to highlight positive modeling. When I was the director and lead teacher of a preschool day camp and summer camp, I employed positive modeling all the time and asked all teachers and parent helpers to do the same. I knew that the behavior and energy of the adults in a learning community really impacts the children's demeanor and actions. For example, in my camps we intentionally engaged in humor and comedy throughout the day. We did not get melodramatic about anything and kept things light. The children caught on to this way of being and our most outspoken students found an easy outlet for expression and communicating their needs, even if it was through a humorous pantomime, a very powerful comedic arts tool that I taught them. This avoided countless problems since tantrums and dramatic face-offs with students became almost non-existent. Many situations were neutralized easily through a lighthearted demeanor, compassion, and humor. This, in turn, developed a depth of friendships and trust between the teachers, parents, and students of my camps. Disciplinary actions became a rare last resort because with positive modeling and a side of lightheartedness and humor, I saw very few behavioral problems that needed "disciplining." It was amazing that in all the years that I ran my camps, we did not have one single suspension or expulsion.