Uniting School Administrators to Create a Better World

Using Your Heart or Your Hammer – What Do I Do?

As you know, I’m starting out in administration, and I’m still learning this new position.

One of the lessons I’m learning is how to make decisions on student consequences. How hard do you hammer? What is the appropriate consequence for the crime?

If you are too harsh with the consequence, then you are in danger of getting parents upset at you. Then again, if you aren’t harsh enough, then you’ll have the teachers complaining that you’re not supporting them. You want to teach the student a lesson and prevent a repetition of the behavior, but you don’t want to scar the child for life.

I’m still trying to feel my way around the office, gauging to see if this is one of those administrations that is very rigid with rule violations or if there is going to be some wiggle room for special cases. As a teacher, I was never real tough on rule breakers. They were just kids who made poor choices. If I had to hammer a student, it was only after I had given him/her many, many chances to make the right decision.

I have been worried that my idea of intervention was going to be different from what was in place already.

I hadn’t been able to figure out what kind of administration this is yet,

until yesterday.

Yesterday, I had an experience that gave me an insight into the personality of the assistant principal at my school. Her name is Kim. It also helped me in my journey toward school administration mastery.

A student was brought into her office for being truant. The student left class early to go to lunch. The teacher reported the truancy to the office and it landed on the desk of the assistant principal.

Truancy, according to past experience, is dealt with by giving the student an after-school detention, contacting parents, etc.

The assistant principal ended up not giving this student any consequence at all, except for a lecture on the importance of staying in class.

She told me the story.

The student left early, because she was hungry.

That, of course, is not a legitimate reason to ditch class, but then the assistant principal asked her why she was hungry.

What she found out, and later related to me, was that the student had not been eating at home, because her parents were spending their time at the hospital where  the student’s 0ne-year-old brother was having surgery. The parents had been there all last week, and would spend the next two weeks at the hospital. The student had been staying with an older sister while the parents were away.

The assistant principal, with this new information, told the student to eat breakfast at school (it’s free for her), and not skip class anymore.

Then she sent her back to class.

That’s when I knew I was in the right place.

The assistant principal used her heart instead of her hammer, even though she knew she might get complaints from teachers about being too soft on discipline.

I have never considered changing my beliefs about the use of my hammer, but now I know that I won’t be the only one guided by my heart. That’s good to know. It makes me look forward to a great first year as an administrator.

Way to go Kim!

Any thoughts?

How do other administrators handle situations like this?



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