Tag Archives: discipline

Tape on Hotel Doors

On a weekend trip, I introduced some of my colleagues to the idea of taping students into their hotel rooms. It’s a simple idea: a piece of masking tape gets attached between the door and the frame after “lights out”. If a student leaves the room, the tape gets unstuck and, in the morning, the chaperones can see.

Like most discipline issues, the idea is about 90% psychological. By putting up a tangible (yet unseen, which makes it more powerful) barrier, we remind the students forcefully that sneaking out during the night is both unacceptable and they will inevitably be caught. Even having a teacher on duty in the hallway during the night doesn’t provide this sort of deterrent.

It’s important that a big scene is made with the tape. I made a point of buying it during a stroll around town with several of the seniors, of discussing how best to apply it while eating dinner within earshot of the main mischief-makers, and of pulling it out and cutting it loudly during lights-out.

We’ve had a number of discipline issues at our school over the past year (who hasn’t?) and I think they often come down to a failure to establish, and reinforce both strongly and without exception, acceptable boundaries for student behaviour. Students want to know what is expected of them and, like scientists, they will push against the boundaries to see if they are there. I think we teachers need to be there, ready, to push back — and taping hotel doors is a good way to do that.

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The Paulina Criterion

We’ve got a lot of rules at our school: formal and informal, rigorously-enforced and wishy-washy, widely-understood and otherwise. I want to introduce a test to determine whether a rule is good or dumb. It’s based on one of my students, whose name is not Paulina (for privacy reasons).

Paulina is a mature student. She understands the idea of collective action (ie: the impact of everyone saying “it’s just one piece of litter”) and does not consider herself to be exceptional. She’s an active student, with a broad array of interests: the sort of person who is getting the best out of her education. Paulina will support any rule that can be explained to her logically in such a way that the rule is clearly necessary for the smooth, safe, and effective running of the school.

The Paulina criterion is thus: if Paulina supports the rule, then it is a Good Rule. If she does not, then it is Dumb.