Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rubber Band Girls

by Jan Shoop
There are times when you know that traditional methods of school discipline are just not going to work. This was one of them.

I was in my office meeting with Trish McCarty, the founder of the school, when the secretary came in and said one of the teachers had brought in two girls who had been on the playground fighting. The girls were about 4th or 5th grade and, at the moment, not particularly happy with each other.

Now traditional school discipline would say call the parents and suspend the girls for fighting. I looked at Trish. She gave me one of those looks and said, “I wish we could just duct tape the two of them together for the day, so they would have to learn to work together.” I said, “Well -- duct tape really isn’t an option, however, I have a rubber band.” I reached into my desk and pulled out an exceptionally, oversized rubber band. It was one of those rubber bands that you use to bundle a file or a large group of papers. The rubber band was about 12” long and ¼” thick. I handed it to Trish, she put the rubber band in her pocket and we walked into the office.

Trish talked to the girls for a few minutes about friendship, kindness and teamwork. Then she told the girls they had two options; one was to be suspended and the other was to stay at school, but have to do something terribly difficult that they wouldn’t like. The girls hesitated for the moment and then said they’d choose option two.

Trish pulled out the rubber band. I thought the girls eyes were going to pop out of their heads. They got this panicky look on their faces. I think the girls thought Trish was going to snap them with the rubber band. Trish told the girls, “Hold out your arms.” The girls slowly raised their arms, and Trish draped the rubber band around their tiny wrists. It hung down almost to their waists.

Trish told the girls, “You have to keep the rubber band on your wrists all day. You have to be nice to each other and everyone else in the school starting with the Registrar, Ms. Mosca.” The girls turned to the Registrar and said, “Ms. Mosca your hair looks very nice today.”

Trish sent the girls on their way with the reminder to get along, work together as a team and not lose the rubber band.

The plan worked extremely well. The girls became friends again and were polite to everyone in the school. However, by the end of the day most of the other 4th and 5th grade girls had come to the office for rubber bands, so they could play the same game. Sometimes it helps to think outside the box.

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