My summer vacation officially ended Monday with our first full staff meeting of the school year. We met to introduce new teachers, to review our employee handbook changes, to talk about pertinent legislation, and to review curriculum. All necessary – none exciting. However, day two of our meetings brought some great Professional Development including an introduction to a book by Ruby Payne about understanding children and generational poverty. These are the kids that we service in our academy, so it truly was meaningful to us as a staff. In order to understand our students’ needs, we must first understand our students. In order to understand how our students learn, we must first understand what is important to them, where they are coming from, and what they bring with them. Our speaker that day gave examples from her experiences working with children of generational poverty and how she learned to respond to them and get to the true root of some of the issues they had in the school setting. I gained so much insight from her anecdotes and can’t wait to continue reading the material she distributed. But the one thing that resonated with me was when her picture of discipline. She explained that there is a difference between discipline and punishment, and we, as educators, need to understand our students well enough to understand what is appropriate for what they need. She pointed out that if you think about the word discipline, it contains the word “disciple”. When we discipline our students, rather than punishing them, we should be discipling them – helping them find different ways of behaving and reacting to situations. We should disciple them by helping them understand that they have choices to make and that there are always many options to behave in many different ways. It really struck a chord with me. I am to be discipling my students to become better versions of themselves by guiding them through other choices…which is so much better than simply punishing them when the “wrong” choice was made. The entire conversation of the day definitely painted a picture of discipline for me that will reshape the way I respond to my students. It will change the way I react to situations that arise – and with middle schoolers…they WILL arise – over the course of this year. This year, as those things arise, I am ready to disciple my students and watch them grow.