I wanted to talk about pushups in my classroom when I started writing this entry back in May 2014.
I wanted to talk about how restorative practices can feel so much more glacial than simple punitive exchanges with students with negative behaviors.
I've spent enough time trying to do restorative practices to hate that phrase, "negative behaviors." It is as if the behavior just "happened" and exists without context.
My wife and I go back and forth on how much context can be blamed for bad decisions, and how much agency a person truly has for their own choices.
I have come the the belief that people own their actions more when they are aware of more alternatives. When there seem to be no alternatives, and people make bad choices from a narrow set of bad options, I don't disparage the person, I disparage the systems that failed to inform them of better options.
I do believe that there are ladders out of drug-based livelihoods. The best ladder is education. When taken seriously as a way out, it can leave the Trap behind. It's really hard to sell education as a way out though.
My first year teaching I had a student bring in $300 dollars in twenties. He was waving it around the class bragging. He was in ninth grade.
Educators need to be able to speak to that, as well as Iago's running Irony.
I started doing pushups instead of write-ups last year.
When a student is labelled "Oppositional Defiant" they are marked as the sort of person who fights authority regardless of the authority figures intentions. Control is paramount for this student. A sense of freedom is their highest goal.
Many of my students are OD. I was OD in school, too.
When I directly oppose my students we all fall into very played out roles. Watch a teacher whose been at it a long time and you'll see how exasperated they get when someone acts out.
The thought process is, "Oh here we go, I've got to shut this kid down, or get him/her out of the room before I lose the lesson I put together for today."
Direct conflict with an OD kid breeds direct conflict. They don't back down, they don't respect authority by their very nature. But they do respect novelty, they respect innovation, and above all, they respect respect given to them.
So last year, when I was with my most OD class, the hardest class of the day, when a student would disrespect me or another student I would ask, "Push-up, or sit-up?"
They would have to choose which, and then I would get down on the floor and do a push-up or a sit-up. Eye contact is key.
Here I am. Here is the man who will take your entire book and read it with you. Here is the man who will burn untold hours bringing you assignments to choose from, rather than assigning specific projects because he gets why you hate being controlled. Here is the man who dresses up to come in to work, always wears a button down shirt and a blazer. Here is the man who will read your daily journals and ask if you are okay when you stop writing like you normally do. Here is that man, on the floor, because of your language, because of your weakness pushed onto another person.
Behavior in my class has improved quite a bit since.