Recently I was asked a question regarding the challenge of misbehavior on the playground and the recess supervisors (who in this case are parents) not addressing the behavior. After thinking it over some, I thought this might be helpful for parents and teachers who deal with similar issues on a daily basis. Here’s what I wrote:
This certainly is a challenge. I think I would handle this in two ways. One, anytime you have persons in authority over the students, they need to understand that, first, they are in authority over these students, and, second, that they are there to uphold the culture, safety, and ethos of the school.
My experience is that parents don’t feel comfortable taking this authority with other people’s children unless they are clearly given it, and then only if they are given expectations of how they ought to deal with problems. So I would be specific with parents in what they should do when they witness a situation that demands intervention and what they should do when a student comes to him or her with an issue the parent did not witness. I would give them a specific process to follow, keeping in mind that they are there to uphold something greater–your school culture.
You might try a tattle box (although you may want to give it a different official name), a place where students who have an issue that needs to be addressed can do so right away. Students can complete a specific form that asks guiding questions or can write what has happened on a blank sheet of paper. The teacher then reads these when she has the time to shepherd. She should then conference with the child about the incident in question. This can help you spot trends with particular students and see things that maybe need to be addressed with a class as a whole.
My classes have a time-out reflection that I find helpful for students. This time should address the following four questions (in this order). Young non-readers/writers should draw pictures in boxes for these questions.
1. How are you feeling?
2. What happened?
3. What could you have done differently?
4. What would help you to trust God when something like this happens? (pray, remember a verse, ask help from a friend….)
This reflection is usually used with the offender(s) but could be used for maybe a “non-offender” too, to help them problem solve and show grace and kindness as well as seeking help from an adult.
Anyway, I would make sure that my playground rules were clear and specific. Make sure you give parents some immediate steps to follow when behavioral issues arise. If the parents always just ask the student to fill out a form and don’t do anything at the time, that can be an issue too. So I would encourage that they at least remove the child when witnessing poor behavior and lead the child through what was okay or not okay with their behavior. The parents need to model right behavior. This isn’t exactly shepherding the heart, which could be done later, but it is correcting.
As far as children telling on others, the line is blurry, but I think the rule is safety for tattling, or that the students can explain to the teacher that they have taken two steps to try to solve the situation (i.e. asking the offender to please stop, making an offer to include or compromise in play, moving to another location if those don’t work…..)