Originally created 11/05/06

In-school suspensions cause students to fall behind peers



EDITOR'S NOTE: McKenna Hydrick is a first-year teacher at Silver Bluff High School. She teaches English I and English II to ninth-graders. She is sharing her diary in this column each week.

The most dreaded part of my day is when the bright orange in-school suspension forms are delivered to my classroom.

My first thought is usually that I can't send five days' worth of work to the student because I don't have it ready. I either don't have the class work thought out yet, or the assignments will be adjusted according to how far we get in the classroom discussions.

Then my initial thoughts turn into this reaction: "Man, I don't want this student out of my classroom for the next five days."

I've found the in-school suspension forms, along with makeup work, have been one of the most difficult parts of the job to master. So much of my class instruction is based on oral participation and collaborative learning that it is very time-consuming to consolidate the class instruction into a worksheet that effectively measures the skills taught in the class.

I've really been thinking about in-school suspension a lot lately because I seem to get more and more of the orange sheets. I'm not exactly sure why the numbers are escalating, but I do hear what the students say in the hallways.

My opinion is they like in-school because they don't have to do anything. They can just complete several worksheets and then be done with school for the day.

They don't have to interact with the teachers; they don't have to answer questions in class; they don't have to participate in group work; and they don't have the opportunity to be tardy.

The students want to go to in-school because, in their eyes, it's easier. They don't think they are falling behind because they are completing their assigned work.

They are missing out, however. They are missing important time in the classroom they need to comprehend the material.

They also miss out on the social interaction with their peers that is vital to their cognitive development.

In-school suspension is supposed to be a punishment for students. But I think we are punishing them in a more harmful way than simply disciplining them for their wrongdoings.

We are doing them an injustice by pulling them out of classroom instruction. The students in in-school suspension are sometimes the ones who need that active classroom environment the most.

I don't know how to solve this problem. I don't even know if there is a solution to it, because students do need an immediate reprimand for their misbehavior.

What we as educators can do is challenge ourselves to make a stronger effort to work with the students when they return so they don't fall behind. Perhaps we could even collaborate between academic disciplines and target certain students by showing a greater interest in their success.

Just like most aspects of teaching, this is a work in progress for me.

I learn better and more efficient ways to handle situations every day.

I will continue to try various strategies with the students and do my best to ensure they are not losing the essential skills taught in the classroom.