The Watertown School District is recognizing WEAC members Pam and Tim Suski for their work with the “Discipline with Dignity” program that has demonstrated success through compassion and high expectations.
“Often our students who regularly struggle to make good choices at WHS have challenges at home,” the Suskis say. “We want to provide positive support and high expectations for both academics and behavior. Through this program we show that we believe in them and expect excellent behavior — because they are capable of it.”
Read the entire school district newsletter article:
‘Discipline with Dignity’ Focuses on Compassion and High Expectations
The “Discipline with Dignity” program launched in September 2017 with support from a Watertown Way grant is finding success using positive support and high expectations for students who make poor choices.
“Discipline with Dignity” aims to go beyond “punishments that are punitive” to a plan that is focused on the “whole child” so:
· Negative behavior declines with more meaningful consequences
· Recidivism rates drop
· Students complete academic work during “restorative” time
· Students become more connected to WHS and Watertown itself
· Academic achievement and positive behavior improve, setting students up for more positive futures.
Understanding students’ stories
Program leaders Pam and Tim Suski say they understand there are deeper reasons why students make poor choices. Often our students who regularly struggle to make good choices at WHS have challenges at home. We want to provide POSITIVE support and HIGH expectations for both academics and behavior. Through this program we show that we BELIEVE in them and expect excellent behavior — because they are capable of it. We have brought consistency to the restorative time program, earning students’ trust, so they are more willing to work with us and talk with us about their struggles.
During the first hour of restorative time we work on academics and in the second hour we work on social skills/empowerment activities to help them become better members of WHS and the City of Watertown. We also “recruit” our toughest cases who consistently skip detentions (because they want out-of-school suspension) and have them serve time in an in-school suspension with a retired staff member who strives to build positive connections. As they work through this new system, we hope they see that we respect them, and they will then have more respect for the building, teachers, peers,and most importantly — themselves.
We were graciously awarded a $4,800 Spark! Health Grant from the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation; we are using those funds to purchase items for building, cooking and recreational projects and compensate teachers for their help with this project.
‘Restoration Hours’ include Skyward review, activities
The kids have responded well and seem to like the calm, consistent manner of “restorative hours” on Thursdays. Each week we look up their grades on Skyward to help direct them towards what things they need to do to pass their classes. We have also started with recreational and cooking activities in the first half of the year, and we will now be moving to some small building projects as well as outside projects in the Peace Garden in the spring. The hardest part has been trying to get our students who struggle the most to “buy in” to the system, and sit down to work on school work and/or talk with us, but we keep trying! Overall, due to a variety of changes at the high school, not just from our program, the number of discipline referrals is down.
The highlights are watching the kids find success with work and see that they CAN accomplish assignments and that people truly care about their success. It is also wonderful to see kids accept rules, consequences, and high expectations for behavior, as they realize that teachers and administrators care for them and want them to make great choices for future success. It is also great to see these kids interact positively with each other as they learn to play euchre, play an intense game of Uno, bake cookies, decorate for Homecoming or Prom, or work together to accomplish some building project. They feel more connected with the school overall.
Slowly, over time we know that our high expectations for them, their academic performance, and their behavior show that we care — and we won’t give up on them. If we can turn just one kid around who is walking a rough path, then we feel we have succeeded.