It’s one of those soundbites that are bandied around, notably in education, that can mean a whole variety of things depending upon who’s saying it or hearing it.
There’s no hard and fast definition of ‘zero tolerance discipline’, for example. But here’s my take…
As a teacher you have to care enough to be tough with kids. You have to care enough not to indulge their bad habits. You have to care enough not to collude with society’s permissive values, the broader excuse culture which, my take, blights lives. Zero tolerance discipline is caring enough not to collude with or give way to parents whose values aren’t in line with the school’s.
You send your child to Michaela and he’s going to receive a superb education, in silent classrooms, where kids sit up straight, arms folded, no pen fiddling, no doodling, no gazing out the window or whispering to your mates on the sly.
You send your kid to Michaela and he’s going to be safe in the yard, the corridors, toilets, on the stairs, in the changing rooms, at the bus stop.
You send your kid to Michaela and he can be clever, hard-working, keen, put his hand up every lesson all lesson, use long words, express his ideas articulately and at length, talk about which university he’d like to go to – all of that – without any fear of being mocked or called gay.
You send your daughter to Michaela she won’t be sexually harassed by male pupils. Corridors and lesson change overs are silent. Pupils walk in single file. Your daughter will be completely jewellery and make-up free.
You send your son or daughter to Michaela and you don’t have to worry that they’ll dread lunchtime because they’re friendless. Every child sits according to the seating plan teachers have designed.
Every lesson, every child has a full pencil case. No excuses.
Every lesson, books are distributed in silence, in seconds.
Every break, 240 kids fall instantly silent when any adult raises their hand.
Every lunch, 240 kids serve one another, clear up after one another, say please and thank you to one another.
There’s no pushing, shoving, name calling, swearing, graffiti, litter, sexual harassment, pressure to be ‘street’, pressure to underperform.
At the end of the school day, there are lots of detentions. At lunch, there are lots of detentions.
You haven’t done your homework, you ‘forgot’ your homework, you ‘forgot’ your pen, you ‘slept in’, you rushed your homework – detention.
You send your kids to Michaela, they’ll learn loads, they’ll feel massively accomplished, they’ll feel safe, they’ll have great relationships with their teachers, they’ll learn to be polite, shake hands firmly, make eye contact, greet new people with pride, have self respect, respect others – they’ll laugh a lot, they’ll have the confidence to be themselves, they won’t need to feign a tough, street, anti academic, aggressive persona – just to survive.
Kids at Michaela work hard and are kind to one another – in every lesson, all day long, every day.
None of that happens by accident. It happens because of our version of zero tolerance.
We give them love. We give them tough love.