Education Opinion

Systems Do Not Equal Prisons

By Nancy Flynn — October 22, 2010 2 min read
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Last month I wrote the article, All Systems Go, about how spelling out rituals, routines, and clear expectations for student conduct during the school day leads to a safer, more productive learning environment for all. I explained how empowering teachers to be the guiding force behind the change in school culture would lead to fewer behavior problems in the classroom, and hopefully, to the greater goal of improved student achievement. I also expressed how the systems were working well, and that the order created by the scripted expectations for conduct on behalf of the teachers and the students have been appreciated by both parties.

I usually don’t respond to comments I receive about my essays, especially the negative, offensive, sarcastic ones, but I do feel compelled to respond to one that I received regarding that article. The comment was, “Wait. You stole these ideas from a prison warden, right? Or is it that prisons and public schools have so much in common?”

Clear expectations, rules, and enforcement of them, are designed to keep our young men and women OUT of prisons. As we know far too well, the quickest route to prison is lack of education. When schools are out of control and proven to be unsafe environments, kids can’t learn and end up struggling just to survive each day “in the jungle.” They see these types of schools as the norm of society and, coupled with an inadequate education, have very little in the way of a promising future. I am not a prison warden; rather, a very concerned principal who truly cares about the achievement of all students. Every other day a probation officer comes into the school to speak to one of his/her “clients,” a 12, 13, or 14-year-old student who has already had brushes with the law. By keeping the school safe and orderly, students can learn and acquire the skills they need to realize a future of higher education. And let’s be real, the world revolves around laws. If we don’t teach and model expectations that are acceptable norms in society for productive and responsible citizens while the students are in junior high school, we are selling them short.

So no, I did not steal the ideas from a prison warden, but I’ll bet there are some prison wardens out there who might want to steal these ideas from me. In fact, I will gladly share our culture transformation process during the year. And just for the record, last year during the first two months of school there were fights. To date, we have had zero. I only hope I can report the same type of improvement in achievement in math and reading when the test results come back next year.

Nancy Flynn
October 22, 2010

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