Are suspensions and expulsions necessary to discipline students for non-violent misconducts?
By Shirley Tang
"No," said Mary, the 70-plus-year-old education pro. She declared that she had never suspended a student in her decades of being a high school teacher.
While I cannot pinpoint exactly why she and I became gym buddies 10 years ago, I learned that we shared one important value. And that was, as former educators, we treated our students as teachable children and human beings, instead of hopeless adults or, worse yet, criminals.
One day in 2013 or so, Mary suddenly failed to show up at the gym for good and did not respond to all forms of contact. Long story short, many months later, I tracked her down like a detective would. The day I saw her again at an assisted living facility for Alzheimer’s patients was one of the most memorable days of my life.
Not only did I track her down, I brought her back to the gym. With a teacher’s intuition, I believed, like I did with my former students, in the potential and capability of Mary. As such, my “training” of her at the gym started anew every other weekend, since she had forgotten what to do at the gym any more.
Sure enough, other than the difficulty of coming up with words sometimes, the brain of the same old gracious Mary was still very much alive.
Eager to learn from this highly respected veteran in education, one day while we hopped from machine to machine, I asked her, “Mary, what was your trick in dealing with misbehaving students?” Readily, she showed me two tricks in her bag.