This question makes me think about Gary (pseudonym), an eighth grader at SBMS. Last school year, Gary frequently got in trouble on the bus. He had two to three write-ups weekly. I'd call him in my office, ask him why he was throwing paper or eating on the bus (two of the most frequent offenses), and then suspend him for a day or two. I'd call his mom to let her know since she'd need to drive him in and pick him up in the afternoons. Of course, in the beginning, Mrs. Daringer (pseudonym) would get upset with Gary but after the third or fourth suspension, she was over it. Surely the bus driver must have it out for Gary... Maybe we were being too harsh... Maybe she should drive him to school every day to avoid these conversations. As an administrator, I was tired of seeing Gary in my office, for the same thing, time and time again.
Fast forward to October of this school year. Gary's older brother (Pat), a ninth grader, comes home to find his dad has had a massive heart attack on their front porch. His dad had died and Pat had to call the rescue squad and his mother. Pat, Gary, and Matty (Gary's twin sister) are devastated; so is Mrs. D.
There have been a total of two bus write-ups on Gary this year. He, his siblings, and mom have had a lot to deal with personally and financially. Whether the decrease in incidents has been a product of his family situation, maturity, or a little of both, I'm not sure. One thing is for sure- Gary has had a special place in my heart since his father's death. I couldn't imagine having to go through what he and his siblings have endured, but I've made it my mission to build a relationship with him, Matty, and Mrs. D.
Instead of bus suspensions for the two incidents on the bus, I had Gary sweep the bus out for a week each time. This was a perfect match for his lollipop eating and paper tossing incidents. The second time I had him in my office, I decided to check his grades in PowerSchool, just to see how he was doing. I noticed his grades had begun to decline; he was not turning in all of his work. He and I had a talk that Friday morning. "I'll make you a deal. You get these two missing assignments completed this weekend and bring them to me on Monday. No assignments and you'll be in ISS during encores until they're done."
I called mom to follow up on Gary's and my conversation. I also had to share about having him sweep the bus as a consequence. First, the bus incident. Mrs. D loved the idea of sweeping the bus! She was glad she didn't have to bring him to school and knew he'd not like sweeping. Then, I wanted to know if she was aware of his grade in Language Arts and that he was missing the two assignments. She had no idea. I told her about the deal I made Gary. She agreed to stay on him and ensure he completed his work.
This story ends happily... Well, I should say it continues in a great way since the school year isn't over. From that point forward, Mrs. D asks to speak with me if she calls the school with a concern. She waves when I see her in the parking lot during dismissal. Gary makes a point to come talk to me in the hallway and I always sit at his table for a few minutes during lunch to see how he's doing, making small talk.
Now, back to the missing work/ISS part...
Wondering if he brought his work on Monday morning? He most certainly did! In fact, as I walked past his homeroom Monday morning, he saw me and came running out, calling "Mrs. Howard!" He gave me a great big hug in the hallway, in front of all his classmates, and said he'd completed all of his work.
There's a post-it note on my computer monitor with Gary's name on it. It's a reminder to me to look on PowerSchool every Friday and check Gary's grades. I call him up to the office every Friday, let him know I checked to see that all his work is completed for the week, and see what his plans are for the weekend. Every few weeks I call him mom and let her know I am continuing to check on him. It lets her know I care, motivates her to stay involved as a parent keeping informed of his assignments and how he's doing in his classes. Gary knows I care about him. He knows when I see him in the hall that I'm going to say hi and that I'm checking up behind him to make sure he's staying on track.
So, why do partnerships matter? ... Because of kids like Gary.