Our campus is having one of those theme-related weeks, where emphasis is placed on a specific topic--but I'll get to that in a minute.
Today I suspended two tenth graders for being stupid (there's no Education Code section for that, so I had to call it something else). Our bell system is more of a computer-generated tone, and it's one that students have taken to recording on their cell phones. Every so often, a student will try to get a class dismissed early by playing the ringtone and hoping to dupe the teacher. Several have tried, but none have succeeded . . . until today. Some teacher fell for it, and let the class out sixty seconds early.
I could fill an airplane hangar with the problems here: they got out sixty seconds early, but not to lunch or break--they got dismissed early between back-to-back classes; the tone sounds differently coming from a floor level phone than it does from, say, the speaker ten feet up the wall on the other side of the room; when a student protests a suspension claiming that it was "only sixty seconds," they don't anticipate the response from me being, "I agree--not a long time to wait until the actual bell, is it?"; the cell phone in question wasn't supposed to be on in the first place, was it?; and if you don't want people to know it was you, why play the tone several more times outside the classroom in front of an off-duty teacher?
Alicia* gets the tone on her phone, then gives it to Arnold*, who plays it. Alicia gets caught, and doesn't want to give names, but as the word "suspension" escapes my lips she starts to recite what seems like the phone book. I suspend her anyway and her father picks her up (all the while asking me if the suspension will keep her from getting into college--I don't think he heard my answer over the rolling of my eyes). I get Arnold into my office, and he immediately cops to the whole thing. His argument is that the class really doesn't like the teacher; he's the one who got suspended, so I guess he showed her. (That also took me back to Alicia's dad: colleges, which are now looking at things like discipline records in the aftermath of Virginia Tech, might have a problem with the suspension if I labeled it as "teacher harassment.") The whole thing was really stupid, and I wondered how we might be able to prevent such problems in the future, and then it came to me:
We must teach every student to play chess.
I'm serious, and I even explained this to Arnold and his mom: if he had been trained at some point to think just a few moves into the future I wouldn't have had to suspend anyone today. If the kids today didn't ignore linear time--if they understood that there is also a future and a past, not just the here and now--they might avoid things like this. If they were trained in the strategies of chess, they might think five or ten moves into the game and stay out of trouble--or better yet, do something productive, or effective, or creative. Maybe we can eliminate this kind of behavior . . .
. . . from Honors students . . .
. . . during Integrity Week.