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Teacher Perspectives on School Discipline

May 18, 2015

We wanted to hear from the front lines of education, from the people who deal directly with the students and administer discipline every day. So we sat down and spoke with ten teachers and administrators from the greater Seattle region. The results were frank, open discussions about the realities of teaching in today’s classroom. Teachers share their perspectives on discipline techniques, the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.



Made possible in part by

Aaron Holmberg

Jean Kincaid

Kate Sipe

Ben Coulter
Security Specialist

Kristin Bailey Fogarty
6th grade administrator

Andy Smallman
Founding Director

Marjie Bowker

Jesse Hagopian

David Levine
401 Adviser

Jay Maebori

Starting with their story

Marjie Bowker teaches at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds. Scriber Lake is a school of choice (alternative high school) that often attracts kids with complex backgrounds who have failed in traditional high school settings. Bowker talks about a revolutionary writing project she started with her students that has transformed the discipline techniques and culture of the entire school.

Suspensions can be overused

Ben Coulter is a security specialist at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle. Security specialists encapsulate much of what a security guard does, but they also form relationships with the kids, and can assist in detective-type duties when trying to resolve conflicts. Coulter shares his views on suspensions, and what’s right for students when it comes to discipline.

The role race plays in discipline

Kristin Bailey Fogarty is the 6th grade house administrator at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle. This is Kristin's 20th year in education, and first year outside the classroom. Fogarty recounts a powerful story about the role racism plays in administering discipline and conflict resolution.

What we accept is what we expect

Aaron Holmberg is a 4th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Everett. Holmberg has been teaching for 17 years. Holmberg shares his thoughts regarding what we accept vs. what we expect from our children, and how it has impacted his disciplinary approach to teaching in general.

The school to prison pipeline

Jesse Hagopian teaches history at Garfield High School in Seattle. He is also the co-advisor of the Black Student Union and has been teaching since 2001. Hagopian describes the restorative justice approach Garfield students are undertaking to tackle conflict resolution and why it’s a successful alternative to suspensions.

I was not prepared as a new teacher

Jean Kincaid teaches 1st and 2nd graders at Green Lake Elementary School in Seattle. Jean has been a teacher for four years. Kincaid shares her experiences as a new teacher who struggled with classroom management and effective discipline techniques until a solution was presented that she feels every new teacher should get the opportunity to use.

I now embrace restorative justice

David Levine is a 401 adviser at Highline Big Picture School. Big Picture is an interest-based, project-based high school. It attracts kids who might not have succeeded in the traditional high school setting. Levine talks about his transition from traditional discipline approaches to implementing the restorative justice approach and the impact it has had on him as a teacher, and how he sees his students.

My students thought I gave up on them

Jay Maebori has been a teacher for 14 years. He currently teaches at Kentwood High School. Maebori recounts the revolutionary moment in his teaching career when he realized his approach to discipline and how he related to his students was wrong.

The teacher time crunch

Kate Sipe has been teaching for 14 years. In addition to teaching at Green Lake Elementary, Kate is also an adjunct faculty member at Antioch University's graduate teaching program. Sipe discusses the challenges teaching staff face in the need to share ideas and offers some thoughtful solutions.

Accountability vs. responsibility

Andy Smallman is the founding director of Puget Sound Community School, or PSCS. PSCS is a 21-year old independent private school in Seattle's international district that serves 6th–12th graders. Smallman discusses the role responsibility and accountability play in administering discipline.

Stacey Jenkins

Stacey Jenkins is the managing producer of Spark Public. She is an Emmy-award winning producer who is passionate about pushing the boundaries of digital media and training the next generation of multimedia journalists. Stacey has been a Digital Content Producer at KCTS 9 for the past four years; her stories have been showcased locally on IN Close as well as nationally on SciTech Now and the PBS NewsHour's Art Beat. Stacey’s experience also includes working as a senior producer for KPTS, as an assistant media instructor and producer for Portland Community College and a TV news reporter for the CBC in Canada.

Fun Fact: Stacey’s guilty pleasures include over-the-top Halloween decor, eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can and Maroon 5’s “Sugar” video.

More stories by Stacey Jenkins