NIAGARA FALLS -- No more dirty looks from teachers would be a good start in rewriting the book on how to deal with disciplinary and learning problems, according to a communication consultant for the Niagara Falls School District. Using suspensions and other traditional forms of punishment to eliminate negative behavior, according to John S. Radice, does little or nothing to help schoolchildren who challenge authority and show no interest in learning.
"Learn what I teach you or I will hurt you. I can hurt you by giving you detention or suspension or I can flunk you," Radice said in explaining how the present system of teaching and disciplining functions. "If all we do is keep punishing violent behavior and not address its root, helplessness and hopelessness, we will only be putting out fires."
What does the communication consultant recommend?
"Replacing the boss-management system of education with a lead-management system in which I, the youngster, take responsibility for the choices I make, and the reason I take responsibility is that it leads to quality in my life," said Radice, who is training teachers at Henry J. Kalfas Magnet School and Gaskill Middle School.
Under the "boss-management system," schools encourage an attitude of "good enough is good enough to get by," while the "lead-management system," he says, fosters an attitude that seeks excellence.
"If a kid asks, 'Is this going to be on the test?' he is looking to do the least to get by. This way of thinking allows us, as a system, to graduate kids with a D average and the problem is D isn't marketable and neither is C. Who wants a C dentist or a C heart surgeon?
"What we're trying to do is flip this thinking around to, 'What's the most I can do to add quality to my life?' For that to happen teachers, students and parents have to understand how behavior works," Radice said.
Love and belonging, enjoyment and fun, love, freedom and power, according to Radice, are the inner forces that prompt behavior.
Once the dynamics of behavior are understood, Radice explained, youngsters can evaluate their own behavior and take steps to solve problems.
Often in "today's environment" youngsters lack respect for authority, Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said.
"At one time, it was shameful to be placed in suspension, or have a teacher call your home, but today those methods of discipline are laughable among some kids," he said.
That is why the district has turned to Radice and other behavioral specialists to find more effective ways of dealing with troubled young people, Granto said,