… from the newsletter notes of Head Teacher John Boyce
In 2001, before we started Garin the new senior staff and I gathered one week in November to talk about the sort of school we wanted, and we talked a lot about the culture we wanted to create.
We wanted a school where each individual was respected as a unique creation from God – we wanted a school where everyone could reach their academic potential – a place where all students would have the opportunity to develop leadership, parenting and citizenship skills and attitudes.
We wanted a school that didn’t do things just because that was the way they had always been done (that is where “doing things differently” came from) … there were all sorts of things we wanted.
And we wanted a school without anger, without shouting, without blame, without punishment.
A lot of schools create an environment where it is “us versus the teachers”. I know this because I see it a lot when students transfer from other schools. They often come with a “don’t tell the teachers” attitude that says to me that we are seen as the opposition-adults to be got around.
We don’t do that at Garin. If a student gets it wrong, we expect them to own up. A phrase we hear a lot is “fair cop”.
A few weeks ago in a newsletter we had the outline of a poster English teacher Nic Richards had in his classroom, something I am now seeing in a lot of rooms:
To Get Out Of Trouble …
Say: “It was me. I was responsible.”
Say: “I am sorry.”
Say: “It won’t happen again.”
Say: “What can I do to make up for it?”
When problems are approached with that sort of attitude, teachers usually see that the education has already happened, the lesson has been learnt, so there is less need for stronger action. (Unless, of course, the student repeats the same mistake!)
That does not mean that we don’t have consequences. Our “study halls” and “pro-social classes” are both part of our system of consequences-but we don’t see either of them as punishment: they are simply consequences for something that went wrong, and an opportunity for learning or coaching.
Our “thinksheets” are also part of a no blame-no punishment philosophy. In this system, when a student is off-task or distracting other students the teacher will give them a couple of reminders, and then, if necessary, the student is separated from the class and asked to fill in a simple sheet to help them think about the effects of their actions.
If that doesn’t work, they go to the back of another class and think about what happened. By this stage there is clearly a problem so we tell you, and we take the time to put things right with the teacher.
So normally we don’t need punishment: but we do need consequences when a student needs time or training to clarify what is the right way to do things here.
God doesn’t make junk!
Garin College, and Catholic schools around the world, have this basic premise in common: each one of us was created by God. That leads to a very clear conclusion: because God made each one of us, each one of is special. Put it another way: God doesn’t make junk!
That logic changes the way Catholic schools operate-and the way members of a Catholic school are treated. The key word is “respect”. There are many, many implications that flow from that understanding, and having a school without anger or punishment is one of them.
Another implication of that premise is the way we run our wider pastoral care system.