Bait and Switch

Earlier this year our little program was in the depths of student misbehavior. A couple of strong role models were pretty much running the place with chronic defiance and bullying. We had tried everything we could think of to change the tide and were at a loss. By this point students had lost nearly every privilege we offered and were running amok.  We had nothing to take away from them and decided to try to start rebuilding anyway.  Basically, we tried the “bait and switch,” and held our very first Spirit Day.  

We spent the day working on projects–both group and individual–that focused on goal setting and team building. We hid the serious messages by using lots of crafty supplies, playing their favorite radio station, and letting some of the casually inappropriate conversations slide.

Oddly enough, they liked it! Our students could be considered “disenfranchised” to say the least, and likely spent school activity time in detention, at home, or smoking behind the utility sheds. They may not have had the chance to be a part of a school before.

This month they started asking when the next Spirit Day would be. We were surprised, but we scheduled it for the last Friday before Spring Break (today–hurrah!). Many students asked us on a daily basis about the upcoming Spirit Day, seemed excited for it, and were even willing to call it a name like “Spirit Day.” It was hard not to giggle at conversations like:
“I hate this f-in’ place. I want to be suspended.”
“Fool chill. Tomorrow is Spirit Day.”

Today was Spirit Day #2.  We had only one absence.  One student, who is chronically absent, missed the bus.  We assumed we would not see her.  She walked in an hour later, having found a ride to school.  She was happily wearing her school shirt and matching bracelets.  Score one for the attendance books!

The message here?  If you have run out of things to take away from your students for their misbehavior, it just might be time to give them something worth having.  Schools inadvertently take away so much from kids that have so little to begin with.  Caped teachers are just as guilty of forgetting this, but we are also just as able to remember and do something about it.

Yeay! for Spirit Day (and for Spring Break!)

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