107. HOW TO/NOT TO TALK TO AN ADMINISTRATOR, RENEE CHRONICLES: THE COLLEGE YEARS pt VIII & TEACHER FEATURE: MICHELLE GIVES A “GOOD” ONE

MEMO TO ALL READERS: This post does have a segment dealing with a much merited paddling given by our Michelle. But before you read it, I (Renee) would like to tell you something. One of Michelle’s students had to have an appendix operation a few weeks ago. Believe it or not, the day of the operation, Michelle (After a long day teaching her 4th grade class) drove over a hour’s drive to the Children’s Hospital to see him! She surprised him and his mom and our 9 year old patient “brightened up” when he saw her -From what I hear. Michelle did NOT have to drive 2 hours round trip, being pregnant and all, but she did because she CARES about her “kids”. That is the kind of sweet person Michelle is and is why I take such a dim view of people who call her a “Hitler”.

HOW TO/NOT TO TALK TO AN ADMINISTRATOR

Dear Readers: On another blogsite created by a certain “Rev.”, a single mother of elementary school aged children wrote about how awful the rural district she moved to was and how bad the policies and administrators were. This mother freely admitted that the school district she came from had NO school c.p. AND that she did not believe in c.p. in the school or home. That’s fine -Everyone has their own opinion on the issue of c.p. But, in a nation of over 300 million people, every community will not embrace the particular values of a transplant from out of state.

As both teacher and administrator, I (Renee) have dealt with this problem on more than one occasion. The parent almost always has a preconceived notion that they are ALWAYS right and everyone is else is wrong or that the school district they came from was “Heaven on earth” and that the new school district is all wrong -Because it has a school c.p. policy. Nothing in this world is all black-and-white -There are gray areas and while parents and educators may not always agree on everything -They still should try to work together for the benefit of the child. That is what this segment is about.

Read Student Handbook FIRST

We at TWP are continually baffled by the problem of parents NOT reading the student handbook. Folks, it isn’t like reading a WAR AND PEACE novel. And, if you wish to take a shortcut, just turn to the section on “Student Discipline” for info as to a c.p. policy. Thats it.

Check for “OPT OUT” policy on C.P.

90% of student handbooks have some sort of “opt out” or “opt in” policy with regards to school c.p. All you have to do is follow the instructions. Whatever you do, keep a copy for your records while turning in original YOURSELF. It seems silly to us but when kids are given paperwork to turn in to a school office -You’d be surprised how often kids forget to do so or lose the papers.

Turn in your “opt out” note yourself!

And if there is no “opt out” policy, submit a signed and notarized hand written statement anyway. Hand it directly to the principal with one copy to the teacher(s). Have them sign your copy. That will END any possibility of c.p. on your child because -If your “opt out” is not honored, there are plenty of lawyers which will take your case.

Can you say “College Scholarship to Yale?”

Avoid Combativeness

Too often, parents go into a meeting with teachers and principals with a “chip on the shoulder” attitude. All of us at TWP have encountered this -And it is unnecessary. As a means of “disarming” would-be agitator parents, I (Renee) keep family photos on my desk facing towards visitors. This little trick has never failed me and a few times, the parent actually asked me, “You have a family?”

The important thing for parents to remember is that educators are human beings too and have families as well as lives away from the school building. As a parent, DO express your reservations against school c.p. IN A CALM NON-HOSTILE WAY. The best way to get the teacher/principal to work with you is by a non-confrontational tone.

And the worst way is to use an angry tone, threats and name-calling. Put yourself in their shoes: Which would you be willing to work with and which would you “push back on”?

Do NOT Argue Policy

I am continually amazed at how many people think teachers and principals MAKE school discipline policy. The fact is -They don’t. They are employees of a school district and go by what the “civilian leadership” (aka school board members) wrote as policy the last time it was updated. So, “fighting” the school c.p. battle at the school level will get you nowhere and cause the educators to label you the “community crank”.

Better idea: Save your “school c.p. battle” for the next school board meeting.

“Myths” to discard

We are REALLY getting tired of some urban legends. Here are a few.

“Broken”Paddles: First, the only wooden paddles that are broken are the ones decades old which break because of “dry rot” which happens to any wood stored in hot closets over many summers. When those paddles get moisture on them and it later dries, guess what: Dry Rot. When that happens, the greatest risk for injury is to the person GIVING the paddling. No educator in their right mind wants a paddle to break for fear of serious injury to themselves!

Statistical Discrepancy I: In a bogus story on another blog, a writer wrote about getting statistical info as to numbers, frequency, individual school info, etc. as to school c.p. As a REAL educator in the field, I can tell you this for sure: Any statistical info as to student discipline will ONLY consist of general numbers -You will not be able to pinpoint specific teachers or students or grade levels in individual schools.

Statistical Discrepancy II: In the statistics themselves, the antis LOVE to rant about numbers not adding up. Well, the question I would pose back is “Which numbers do you really want? Total # of kids paddled OR Total # of paddlings given?” The key: Some kids get paddled more than once in a given school year so the latter # will ALWAYS be equal to or greater than the former. (I didn’t need that statistics class back at Georgia to debunk that myth!)

RENEE CHRONICLES: THE COLLEGE YEARS pt. VIII

Pledge Rebellion

For those who wonder, how did Renee endure “servitude” as described in last week’s post COLLEGE YEARS #7 ? The answer depends on what you mean by “servitude”. We pledges were told that personal services was restricted to only manicures/pedicures and was intended to give each pledge a chance to know each Alpha sorority sister in a non-formal casual way. And one of the duties of the Pledge Trainer was to look out for each pledge and make sure no sister asked for any other service (laundry, room cleaning, term paper work, etc.). I later learned that sisters who asked for extras could end up moving to an apartment! All other “services” were chapter and/or community oriented and were par for the course as far as pledging was concerned -Sorority or Fraternity.

Alpha sorority DID ask a lot of its pledges but nothing worth having is ever easy or free. But we did lose about a dozen girls who were spoiled prima donnas. IMHO, so be it! Alpha ended up better off without them.

I guess you could make the case that ALL pledgeship is “servitude” but I would disagree.

To a point.

There was one incident in the third week of my pledgeship where I drew the line. It had to do with unwelcome viewers. During house chores. Why? Because we pledges did our indoor chores around the Alpha house in lingerie! That’s right! And least anyone think something is very weird here -There was a reason. It has been said that the “freshman fifteen”, in which the average new college student GAINS weight, happens to too many students who are away from home for the first time ever. But not Alpha’s pledges. A pledge at Alpha is NOT going to hide any weight gain whatsoever. Nope. The Alpha sisters WILL know about any weight gains and WILL do something about it before it becomes a bigger problem. The cure: Exercise programs like aerobics.

Another reason for the lingerie house chores: Self-confidence. If a pledge of Alpha doesn’t have a positive self-image, it will show in how she carries herself in public. Again, sorority membership is not for everyone and those young ladies who are too shy or are wall-flowers do not make good sorority members.

Shyness, weight gain and wall-flower persona was NOT my problem. The sisters were all girls and all had boyfriends so my anatomy on display to the SISTERS was no big deal to me. A “skin show” for their boyfriends -A BIG deal. Those house chore hours late in the afternoon was a “closed house” time. A certain sister I will name Alisha decided to have her boyfriend over one afternoon to work on some project with her computer. I had just finished with the vacuuming of another room and carried the cleaner into the area where Steve was sitting -With Alisha at his side!

I nearly dropped the vacuum cleaner.

“Alisha, no guys in here during closed hours…” I blurted as I immediately turned and walked out.

Alisha replied matter-of-factly, “It is o.k., Steve is with ME so go head and do what vacuuming you need to do.”

“No way, Alisha…Rules are rules…We pledges are doing house chores…Not a ‘skin show’ for the entertainment of non-member guest!” I responded.

I was on thin ice because Susan, the Pledge Trainer, had to make a personal errand. But I knew I was in the right and would NOT back down.

Alisha snapped back, “Who are YOU to tell me, a SISTER, what the rules are?…Get back to doing your chores…Steve is helping…”

“Either Steve goes or…” I interrupted, not knowing where this was going.

“You can ‘quit’ anytime, Renee…Another pledge can take over here…But give me your pledge pin first,” Alisha retorted.

“Pledges have the RIGHT not to be humiliated by being put on display in a ‘skin show’ for boyfriends of members…” I answered back as I then turned and walked away. Seeing the big grin on Alisha’s boyfriend’s face made me then think, “I do not wish for another pledge to go through humiliation like this so I’d have better do SOMETHING!”

As I got dressed, I had a brainstorm: There is NO way this “Pledge-skin-show-for-member’s-boyfriends” can occur if there are no pledges. I then immediately rounded up all the pledges in the house, got everyone dressed and led the pledges outside to join the ones doing lawn work for a spur-of-the-moment meeting. As some of the sisters stood by puzzled, we pledges ALL voted to turn in our pledge pins and walk away. It was decided by our pledge class that no one would return unless the house “closed rule” was strictly enforced AND that the offending sister be barred from ALL future voting as to pledge retention and initiation. In addition, we pledges all agreed that ANY dismissal vote against yours truly would only mean a second walkout. As pledge class secretary, it was my task to write down our demands and hand deliver the notice to the Pledge Master after everyone in the class signed it.

After my hand delivery to a startled Pledge Master, I quickly rejoined our pledge class walking to the library where we often met for afternoon study sessions. Since our notice said where we would be and Susan’s Toyota pulled in the Alpha driveway as our class was about a block down the street, I KNEW we would not wait long at the library. (I would have done almost anything to be a fly on the wall at the Alpha house when Susan heard what happened -Think “S*** Hitting the Fan!”)

Sure enough, the Pledge Master and Pledge Educator (Susan) came into our section of the library and pleaded for us to come outside for a chat. Once outside, both apologized about the “misunderstanding” and asked us to please return to Alpha as pledges. I then spoke up for the group saying, “There was NO  ‘misunderstanding’ at all…The conditions of our note are to be 100% complied with…No exceptions!”

“Of course, Renee dear…Agreed!” answered Susan.

“Susan, you do understand…Alisha can have NO vote whatsoever on any pledge…And if I am ever dismissed…The ENTIRE pledge class will walk out…permanently.”

“Renee, you are one of our most promising pledges…We ALL at Alpha want you back…As to Alisha…She has been suspended from chapter membership for the semester…Please, Renee…Come back!” wailed a tearful Susan.

Susan and I then embraced tightly as she whispered, ” When I heard about Alisha’s stupidity, I came close to punching her out!”

Well, after all that, the respect the sisters all had for me went way up -But I knew I was just a single “no” vote from becoming an independent again so I did not push my luck. Instead, I aimed to become the best pledge I could be -And succeeded when early in the next semester, I received that which Alpha sisters refer to as “The Bond”.

 

TEACHER FEATURE: MICHELLE GIVES A “GOOD” ONE

Hello y’all: This is Michelle, the Alabama ex-cheerleader turned 4th grade teacher. Up until now, I have been the most reluctant paddler among the four of us at TWP -And all of us HATE this part of our job. But last week, something changed.

Up until last week, every paddling I ever gave (4) hurt me on the inside as badly as the short-term stinging of the lite-moderate swats hurt the recipient. I have shed REAL tears and my reputation as someone who doesn’t want to paddle is well know to the kids. So, what changed?

Read on.

From the start of the new school year in August, I was optimistic going in as in past years. It has been said that I have a “sunny” personality and I try to live up to that. Even though I had to give my eager new students the “bad news” that I will be taking maternity leave at the start of Christmas break. (The poor dears looked so disappointed -But I did promise to drop in late Spring to show them the baby.) Well, like all other years I’ve taught, the year has been typical with student crushes on me turning to whining  about homework on weekends. (I always remind them that they have 3 nights to do it but some…Oh well!)

A few days after the start of the new year, my class got a new student who just moved to our county from out of state. I’ll call her Meg and we all welcomed her to our class. Meg was rather shy and very petite but has done very well academically so far. The thing I picked up on was that Meg just didn’t make friends easily. During recess, I noticed from a distance that Meg was almost being “froze” out by the other 4th grade girls who tend to cluster as a group.

If there is one thing that irritates me more than anything, it is “social snobbery”. I HATE that. From my own growing up years to my college sorority to the present, you ALWAYS  lost points with me over snobbery. After a few days of seeing the 9 year old girl version of snobbery, I called the girl pack over during a recess and told them, ” I do NOT like what I am seeing…Either y’all open up your recess clique to Meg or you can sit inside!”

That seemed to solve the snobbery problem for Meg as the girl clique started to open up some for her. Up until then, Meg seemed to dislike recess. After my warning (Which Meg did not hear) to the girls, things did improve and Meg seemed happier. That is, until a couple weeks ago. Background: I am not always monitoring recess but my fellow 4th grade teacher Jenny always spots for me on those occasions when I need to work on lesson plans or something. As everyone knows, teachers are not aware of everything kids do and say which is why we tell them: If something is wrong -Tell us!

One day, as Meg came in at the end of recess, I noticed she seemed a little down. That afternoon, I had stayed in and caught up on some papers to be graded so I did not know why. The next day at a.m. recess, Meg did NOT want to go outside -But would not tell me why. I coaxed her out promising to come out myself -Even though I had more lesson plan work to do.

After a short bit, I figured out the problem. Meg was at the far end of the playground out of hearing range but somewhat closer to the girl group. Meg was still a “loner” type and someone else was needling her! His name was Dennis, who had a “lone-wolf” as well as bully reputation. Jenny, who also watches out for bullies among the boys missed this. I only knew to look out because I was aware that Meg might have a problem.

She did.

It seemed that Dennis, who was in Jenny’s class, was giving his unflattering opinion of Meg, her mom and whatever else he could think of. Jenny and I were horrified when Meg told us what Dennis had been saying. Jenny promptly put Dennis on recess sit-in with a warning: “Next time, buster -You will not be sitting too well.”

After he missed a few days of recess, Jenny and I didn’t hear about any more Dennis-problems. That is until last week. I was inside working on lesson plans during a recess when just minutes before Jenny was to bring our classes back in , I decided to step out for some fresh air. Everything looked normal at first -Then Jenny and I saw Dennis approach Meg. And he wasn’t exchanging pleasantries. Meg turned towards us and ran across the playground -In tears.

As I tried to calm Meg down, she finally cried, “Dennis called my mom and I “whores”…” I was stunned and so was Jenny. We asked some of the other girls about what Dennis had said and several girls confirmed it. It seems that Meg’s mom moved to our county to get a new start in her life but the local rumor mill somehow picked up on some “shady” things she had left behind. Kids DO pick up on what adults say but as to what Dennis said to Meg -That did it! Dennis had already been warned NOT to bother Meg but after what he said this time -I felt like a volcano erupting.

After getting our classes in their rooms, I got my 16″  x 3 1/2″ x 1/4″ paddle out that was made for one purpose -Just Desserts! Jenny was going to do the honors but while he was her student, I insisted that since my student was the offended party, I should.

Normally, I wish to be anywhere but in this situation but this time -A conference room paddling was something I really wanted to dish out. And no half-hearted swats either. Those 5 swats were full strength and meant to sting intensely.

SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK

As a tearful Dennis turned around to face me -I was unsympathetic. I bluntly told Dennis, “If you EVER harass Meg again…Or anyone else for that matter…I’ll double dose what I just gave you!” As Dennis headed back towards Jenny’s classroom wiping his tears, Jenny kinda looked at me askance and fanned herself. She also whispered, “5 is the max, Michelle!”

Finally, to those who have a problem with school c.p.: Fine, we can agree to disagree but I just can’t sit back and let one of my “kids” endure the kind of harassment Meg received. That falls under bullying and words DO hurt. I will NOT allow bullying like what happened to Meg to go unpunished.

 

COMING NEXT:

RENEE CHRONICLES: THE COLLEGE YEARS pt. IX,

ATHLETIC ADVENTURES OF JENNY

&

TBD

 

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