"Student banned from prom for romantic gesture." This was the headline I read earlier this week. Of course, like the rest of America who read an article covering this topic, I was outraged. How could a boy be suspended from prom for being so sweet and romantic? That principal must be a real jerk!
Then I realized a huge error I was making and one that I get furious when I see others make; I was judging the educator as awful before I had all of the facts. I based my whole opinion of this principal, Beth Smith, by the headline.
I know that the boy snuck on to school property and put up a sign asking a girl to prom. (She said yes in case you're wondering.) I know that the principal the suspended him and because of that he was ineligible to go to prom.
With these facts, I can understand why everyone is so angry. It seems like the punishment is harsh for the crime. However, there is much that we do not know about this student. Before we vilify that principal, we need to think about what may have prompted her to make that decision. Was the student always in trouble? If so, then of course his punishments are going to get harsher. Did the principal know he might sneak onto school and give him a warning? If so, then the student is guilty of flat out disobedience and the punishment fits. We may never know the circumstances that lead to this decision because it is against to law to reveal school records or discipline records of a student. The student looks like a modern day Romeo and the principal looks an evil monster. That principal works at that school with that student on a regular basis. Can't we just give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she made the decision she thought was best? Do we really know better than her? This week, I am taking my students on a field trip as a reward for completing a math program (RODEL). I have two students who can't go because they did not complete the books. I tried hard all year to help them but they couldn't or wouldn't get it done. It feels like a natural consequence to me; you didn't do the work so you don't get the reward. I bet my headline would say "Tucson teacher refuses to let students go on a fieldtrip!" Thus, my villainy would become apparent to everyone in America.
Another thing I find upsetting with this is how mad everyone got because boy was going to miss prom. All of a sudden comments were being left and the mayor of the town got involved. Voices were being heard. Why was prom such a tragedy that it caused this uproar? Isn't attendance at prom or any school function a privilege and not a right? Are teachers getting pink slips at this school are programs being cut due to budget constraints? Is he getting a quality education? Why aren't people more concerned with this? I would think a quality education is a right and that should get people outraged when it is not happening! What a topsy turvy world we live in when parents are more concerned with extracurricular activities such as dances and sports than with their own child's education!
There is a student at my school who does not do any homework. He doesn't do much classwork either and his behavior is challenging to say the least. His teacher, a close friend of mine, tries to enforce consequences. Everytime she does, the mom throws a fit because she doesn't want her son to be left out of anything. She doesn't want him to miss recess or any fun activities. It's more important to her to let her son have these experiences than for her to help teach him responsibility and encourage him to participate in his own learning.
How do we turn this around? Most public schools have a mission to educate all students. Why is there so much attention when a student can't go to a dance, play a sport, or go on a field trip? How do we get the focus back onto a quality education and off of the extracurricular things? And how do we get people to trust us educators that we will do our best to make the best decisions to impact our students' achievement? Why does it seem that people are always quick to assume the worst in us educators?