‘Buddy Classrooms’ — the answer to the suspension cycle?

‘Buddy Classrooms’ — the answer to the suspension cycle?

Students get sent out of classrooms everyday. They are either sent to spend the day in the office, another teacher’s classroom, or sent home if they happen to be suspended. This is a punitive way of dealing with discipline and does not build on the student’s academic or social participation in their classroom community. In fact, students who spend an extended amount of time outside of the classroom, especially on a suspension-type consequence, are 23% more likely to drop out of school, according to a 2006 study in Florida. They are also more apt to being suspended again.

Why do these students who are suspended or sent out of classrooms for extended periods of time have a higher rate of dropping out or getting suspended? There are a number of possibilities. When being sent out of the classroom, the student consequently misses class work. The student then needs to do more work to catch up, and this can be frustrating. The student might act out because of this and then get sent out of the classroom again, further widening the gap between the student and his/her peers.

So what can we do, as educators, to not use punitive measures, like suspensions, while still keeping the classroom safe? A possible solution is what I like to call ‘buddy classrooms’. These classrooms are designated at the beginning of a school year, where two teachers agree to use each other’s classes as either ‘work classrooms’ or as ‘I need a break classrooms’. In this model, the teachers can give a student a pass to just have a different space to get their work done if they are unable to function as their best self in a classroom. There is a time-limit set on each work classroom, as to get the student ready to come back to the community in a safe way. If the student just needs an emotional break, this would function in the same way, with a time limit, and again, the end result having the student back in the classroom within the day, and even within the hour.

The goal is to have the student back in the classroom as soon as he/she is ready. Independence and self-monitoring of behavior can become a classroom norm. When a student needs a break, he or she can choose to take that time without teacher interference. Of course, this procedure has to be explicitly taught, modeled, and monitored (and should be grade appropriate). This gives control to the student while also keeping the classroom and the student on track academically and socially. Everybody wins 🙂