KIPP Charter Creates Learning Environment with Uniform Discipline
Last winter I volunteered twice weekly for two months at a local KIPP charter school for 400 students in K – 4th grade, and a few preschoolers. I volunteered in the Art and Music Class. The school is open for an extended day with snacks, lunch and supper available. Kipp uses a uniform disciplinary program throughout this school.
The purpose of the discipline is to create a calm and caring environment where each child has the opportunity to learn and to express him/her self. The discipline is reinforced by verbal cues from the teachers as well as assurances that a calm environment allows time for learning. Students who repeat disruptive behavior are isolated from the group for a few minutes until they establish self-control, and then are asked to rejoin. Students are complimented on their work and on their helpfulness and kindness to each other.
My observations are that most children accomplish the goals for a class period with good humor, a spirit of friendship, and confidence and trust in their teachers and their school environment. Some students have learning differences or disabilities that require individual attention, but there is little funding for that. Occasionally, a helper accompanies a severely challenged student. Many appear to live with caring parent(s), while others may experience harsh and chaotic lives. All live in families earning very low or moderate incomes.
The KIPP discipline of students includes
- staying in line while moving from one classroom to another,
- wearing uniforms, with shoes tied, shirts tucked in and hands out of pockets,
- sitting in a circle quietly & paying attention to instructions on preparing for class work,
- raising hands to ask a question or to respond to the teacher,
- sitting in chairs while accomplishing class work,
- refraining from wiggling, giggling & chatting, when in line, preparing for class or working, and
- sitting alone for a few minutes, or doing sit ups or push ups after a period of disruptive behavior.
My most consistent observation is that the students are happy, helpful to each other, and trusting of the teachers and volunteers. Most are enthusiastic about accomplishing their assignments, even though they may need a little help or an encouragement. They know what to expect and understand the goal of their work in a class. They look forward to marching in Mardi Grass, & wearing the crowns and capes they make in art class. They are pleased to perform the dances and songs they learn in music class when they celebrate African American Day in school. While uniform discipline is not the only strategy for teaching disadvantaged students, it works for many.