This is a version of an email correspondence which addresses the issue of discipline in the Peace Practices dojo (classroom).
Hi Brandon-It was good to receive your correspondence and get an idea of what you are attempting to accomplish at the school. I'd like to provide you my input based on the little I've seen and heard of the Aikido class at TRS. I'm _____'s mother and have witnessed bits and pieces of the class on several occasions.What struck me most about the class is that the instructors do not require obedience. I see the kids goofing around and notice how much of your time you spend trying to get them to listen. I see participation in the class as a priviledge that must be earned and would prefer that you dismiss the children that are unable or unwilling to listen. You could possibly achieve this by having them sit out the next class when they are distruptive and after sitting out three classes, dismiss them from the program. I think you deserve much more respect from the children then you are demanding. I similarly believe that the children are capable of giving you more respect.That said, [my child] has shared that he likes the class and especially mentioned learning the skills and tactics. So, thanks for all you do and let me know how I can support the cause.
Thanks very much for taking the time to respond and offer input which goes directly to the heart of the need for the Peace Practices curriculum. It is most important to me to begin by acknowledging the dilemma. You have put a finger on the primary challenge of the Thursday class, which I am addressing in the following ways at this time:
- Any child lost in his or her own agenda is asked to bring their body back to the training at hand by noticing what the class is doing and rejoining the group's movement.
- If that doesn't work, the child is excused to one of the observation chairs encircling the room and may request to return after five minutes or so have passed.
- If that doesn't work, the child is excused to the office and may or may not have the opportunity to rejoin us, at my discretion.
- Some children continually push for control of the group's attention, with varying degrees of self-consciousness, and this behavior leads directly to parents in conference with me. One student had enough of this and opted out, which was a difficult but entirely acceptable outcome.
The need for discipline is also acute because the current class is a pilot and is packed to bursting with children who struggle with behavioral issues. This is so because aikido and Martial Nonviolence are ideal opportunities to engage ADHD-spectrum and other discipline-related challenges. It is also the case that the load is too great for one group where so many individuals needing attention at the same time. If I end up starting again in another environment, I will decrease the original enrollment and consider a lesson learned.
Rolled-out to the whole TRS community, the Peace Practices curriculum will split the children with the most difficulty self-regulating into different groups, reinforcing the Montessori value of the Ordered Environment helping children, adults and, by extension, whole families to focus on the work at hand. A balance must be struck for this "normalization" to kick into gear, and the Thursday class moves in and out of this zone. The class has been progressively more in than out of focus over the last 5-6 weeks, and continues to improve with added support from parents both attending the class and reinforcing the ideas at home, which will also be a missing element until the curriculum is deployed as a whole. I hope this addresses your concerns, clarifies my intentions, and provides you with the information you need to support [your child]'s participation. I hope you will reply with any additional ideas and concerns, and allow me to address them.
As for letting you know how you can support the cause, we need a decision to commit to raising the funds necessary to launch the program. This could come from the parents as a whole, from a few families able to fund the initiative, from an organization to which a parent or parents have access, or from any other source that makes sense. Through partnership with the non-profit Association Building Community, donations to this program could be tax deductible and result in serious "social capital" growth for any supporting individuals or groups. If you know of any way to move this forward, I would be most grateful. More importantly, the children would begin to benefit right away. Also, if you use Facebook, please join our Cause at http://cause.peacepractices.com/ and let other parents know that Peace Practices is where you'd like fundraising energy to go.
With gratitude for your compassion, time, and energy,