57. TEACHER FEATURE: MICHELLE PADDLES A “FLIRT”, R.C. pt. II & PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE week #3

MEMO TO “GERI”: We at TWP received your email and plan to touch on what you said in a commentary for next week. To sum up our perspective: Regardless if what the political culture (liberal or conservative) of an area of the U.S. is; that should be IRRELEVANT as to the questions “Who should control school policy-making?” (state government or local elected school boards) and “How should the classroom be managed?” There are two possible answers to the first: Centralized control by distant bureaucrats in state capitals or Community consensus through elected local schools boards representing the community. The second question on classroom management can be summed up in two choices: “Teacher as facilitator” (or “babysitter”) or “Teacher as classroom authority figure.” The answer one gives to those questions show what side of the c.p. debate they are on.

MEMO TO “BILLY H.”: We at TWP couldn’t agree with you more -Outsourcing of c.p. to others makes the referring teacher look “weak” and we discourage that practice. See TEACHER FEATURE below. Michelle could have had someone else do the paddling but, as much as she HATES doing so, she chose to carry out the paddling herself.

TEACHER FEATURE: MICHELLE PADDLES A “FLIRT”

This is TWP’s first segment on the “teacher perspective” we promised earlier this summer to retain in TEACHERSWHOPADDLE. This episode centers around sweet Michelle, our youngest teacher and the third paddling she ever gave. This occurred only a couple of months after the confrontation recounted in TWP’s post MICHELLE’S ENCOUNTER WITH A P.T.A.V.E. MEMBER. This new episode should be a heart-warming and touching saga that DOES reflect who we all really are as teachers: kind and sensitive but still firm when a situation requires the use of c.p. as a last resort.

Hi everyone! This is Michelle, the ex- Alabama Crimson Tide cheerleader turned 4th grade school teacher. I know what readers think when they hear about me from the “Fan Mail” I get weekly! Folks seem to think: “Blond bomb-shell as teacher” must be “heaven on earth” for those “lucky kids!” Well, the blond part aside, I am a teacher first and foremost. The kids in my class seem to grasp that fairly quickly -After a week or so with homework assignments like as in any other class. Please understand, while I must be the adult in charge of my students -I also bring a cheerful and sunny disposition to my classroom. Only twice before had I used a paddle, once when a boy pushed a girl off a swing and the other for a “sucker-punching” playground bully.

But the third time was different…and was NO charm.

What was it for?

Flirting….WITH ME!

Please, dear readers, understand that this was not just winking or grinning at the “new teacher” at the start of the year which I expect to go through every year for however long. No, this was very overt “hugging” by an infatuated 10 year old boy I will name Miguel. This “flirting” consisted of random hugs initiated by Miguel throughout the day and I tried unsuccessfully to stop this by conferences with his parents and Mr. Smith, our principal. After those meetings, the unwanted “contact” would stop and later resume as nothing had ever been said. Since I was the only teacher in our school who could speak a little Spanish; moving Miguel to Jenny’s class was not a good option. (I work with a resource English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher who works with a dozen other kids in our school 1 hour a day.)

Everyone told me that Miguel must be held to the same standard of behavior as all the other students. That meant Miguel had to be penalized for his “inappropriate touching” of a school staff person. And as his teacher, I had to warn him of the consequences of his actions -Including c.p.

I certainly hoped it would never come to that but did, in front of the resource teacher and Mr.Smith, reiterate the school policy to Miguel and all the possible sanctions. His resource teacher did translate some for me since I just know enough Spanish to “get by.” Miguel’s parents also were made aware and understood completely.

Right away, Miguel had his computer time suspended the next time he attempted a hug. At first, that seemed to work but the NEXT day I would have to repeat the sanction. Then, Miguel started repeating the attempts to hug later in the day. So, my next step was the recess sit-in. That meant Jenny or I had to take turns staying in to watch him. This got to be a drag when Miguel was sitting in during EVERY recess! As Jenny jokingly remarked one day,”I think your pint-sized ‘boyfriend wanna be’ actually enjoys sitting in with you…And not me!” Jenny said that only in jest but she had a point -Recess sit-ins for more than a week were not working.

The next day, at the start of class, I told Miguel,” I’m not keeping you in recess anymore because it is NOT working…Rather, the next option is this…” I then pulled out the paddle but couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. “Miguel, I don’t know what else to do…And Mr. Smith WILL send you to the alternative school if he hears about ANY more trouble…Understand?” I implored. Miguel nodded and seemed to understand.

I had actually hoped the threat of removal from my class would cause a change in Miguel’s behavior before the paddle would be a factor. But I was mistaken…Very mistaken.

Later that morning, Miguel got up from his desk as if to ask me something. He had done likewise on previous days and would walk up behind my large desk in the front and place his arms around my shoulders while starting to ask a question. Every prior time Miguel did that, I penalized him with a recess sit-in. But this time had to be different because I had already warned him.

As he approached my desk, all I could think was “Dear Lord, please cause Miguel to remember what I told him earlier!”

My prayer was NOT answered as Miguel placed his right arm around my shoulder and leaned into me and started to speak. But I had warned Miguel about what would happen the next time he touched me inappropriately and immediately shushed him while reaching for the one teacher tool I hoped would be unnecessary: My 16″ x 3 1/2″ x 1/4″ paddle.

I took Miguel to the conference room after getting Wendy as a witness (Wendy’s class was with Max’s at the library). As Wendy put aside the papers she was grading, I explained the whats and whys and she understood. She asked if I wanted her to do the paddling but I felt that if one of my “kids” was to be paddled -I would be the one to do it.

Miguel was already starting to cry and pleaded, “Please don’t paddle me, Miss …. I’m sorry…”

I replied, “Miguel, I hate doing this but you give me no other option than to send you to the office and if Mr. Smith hears about any more ‘inappropriate touching’, you will be removed from my class AND THIS SCHOOL…Understand?”

A tearful Miguel pleaded,”I really like you, Miss …., please don’t…”

Speaking in a soft tone I implored,” Everyone KNOWS you like me but you must also respect me as you teacher and the first step in that is when your teacher tells you NOT to do something -Do not do it!”

Continuing, I told Miguel,”I am going to give you 2 swats, o.k.?…And I hope we never have to come back here again,…understand me?”

Miguel nodded as I had him turn to the wall and bend over with his hands pressed against the wall. Seeing that nothing was in the back pockets of his blue jeans, I lined up the top edge of my paddle with the top edge of Miguel’s back pockets. I then placed my left hand over Miguel’s back belt loop as my right hand held the paddle at a 90 degree angle.

At this point, I had a lump in my throat and thought,”What kind of ‘sicko’ could enjoy this?…Paddling kids never even crossed my mind when I picked education as a college major!”

I swung the paddle briskly.

SMACK! Miguel let out a “owww.”

I swung the paddle again just wishing to be done with it.

SMACK! Miguel flinched with another “owww.”

When a teary eyed Miguel turned around, I nearly lost it myself and had to sit down to pull myself together.

Wendy started to escort Miguel back to the classroom but I stopped her and said,”Miguel, I know those two swats stung but they hurt me too!…I don’t ever want to see you back here again…Do you hear me?”

Miguel murmured.” Miss …., please don’t be mad at me…I promise to be better!…And I still LIKE you!”

Wiping away a tear, I replied,” Miguel…I like ALL my students and enjoy TEACHING everyone in my class!…So, lets put this behind us and make a fresh start…O.k.?”

Miguel nodded in agreement and smiled as Wendy took him back to the classroom. In fact, Wendy had to spot for me for about 10 minutes as I recomposed myself. I would have no more “Miguel” problems but did get a parting “hug” on the last day of school from Miguel as he then dashed out the door saying, “Don’t paddle me!…Don’t paddle me!” (Of course I wouldn’t -The school year was over!) Renee saw the whole thing and we both had a good laugh.

Those classroom management classes I took at Alabama did NOT include instructions on how to manage “Miguels”!

 

RENEE CHRONICLES pt. II

Change

We all have to deal with change. Some embrace it and others flee it. How one adapts to change can have a profound influence on the rest of their lives.

As I recounted in R.C. I, I was born in North Carolina in a mid-sized county that was beginning to rapidly grow. But most of my growing up years was spent several states away. You could say I was involuntarily “transplanted.”

In other words, my family moved…when I was all but 5 years old.

I didn’t like it at first with the fact that my grandparents were NOT a part of the move. It was actually harder on my older brothers who had to leave friendships behind. My daddy told me years later that when the high school head football coach retired and daddy did not get the promotion as new head coach -He knew to start looking elsewhere for a teaching/coaching job. As he recounted to me, when a new coach was brought in from another county, that coach brought in his own assistants. Translated: Daddy was out as an offensive line coach (His high school and college playing position) as well as his coaching supplement which made a big difference in the budget of a family of 6 (Dad, mom, me and my three brothers).

It was hard at first -After the hugs, good byes, and following the moving truck in the station wagon for an 8 hour drive. {That station wagon was “retired” soon after and replaced by one of the first mini-van models to come out) Of course, being the youngest, I readjusted the fastest in our new home since I was just starting school. I did always look forward though to seeing my grandparents/extended family during the holidays or visits.

My personal experience in moving at a young age is why I go out of my way to welcome new arrivals in my community. I have received emails which accuse me of being anti-transplant when it comes to people moving into the southern U.S. from other regions. The truth: I am always outgoing and try to be the first in my neighborhood to welcome ALL newcomers. That was the way my family was greeted by the community we moved to all these years ago and I have never forgotten that lesson.

Just one other point though.

When changing addresses, it is not expected that you must totally conform to everything around you at once. The problem with too many transplants from other regions of the U.S. is that they think they know more than the locals. Much of the social friction between people from different backgrounds stems from an arrogance of “I’m smarter than you because I am from…” or “We in (Northern/West Coast state) are ‘more advanced’ than…” Major bit of advice to everyone that moves to a new community: Reach out to the community and it will embrace you. Shun or demean it and you will feel the draft of a chilly reception no matter how far south you relocate.

 

PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE week #3

Well, another week gone by and I stopped counting the number of Tylenol gel caps used this week. (If y’all ever hear of a school administrator o.d.ing on headache medicine -That will probably be ME! Readers have asked how “Coach B” and I are getting along. As to that and the rest of my week, here it is below.

MONDAY: A fight broke out on school bus -Nothing MAJOR and no one hurt but two 7th graders will be sitting in I.S.S. for a week. About 28 large buses -I cannot ride every one so some kids will either learn self control or pay the penalty!

TUESDAY: I agreed to let Coach B know when one of his players is sent to I.S.S. Fine! But the ol’ ball coach seemed to forget when I asked him to come by my office after school. Did I barge into the lockers? No, I didn’t need to…Rather, I just called him on his cell phone. His player had his 5th tardy and is in I.S.S. 1 day. I have a feeling the young man will improve his class to class foot speed because of the extra laps coach B will assign him to run.

WEDNESDAY: Midweek and a false fire alarm to break up the rut. (Hey, one thing about this job is IT IS NEVER BORING!) Culprit was caught thanks to hallway security camera. 5 days in I.S.S. Folks, I am beginning to wonder if maybe more c.p. may be needed around here but Mr. Jones tells me student conduct has IMPROVED overall over last year at this time. Anyone out there still interested in education as a career?

THURSDAY: I had the most interesting conversation with a mom over her boy’s two detention halls. She is afraid that her precious 6th grade angel will be paddled in the future! Of course, I informed her that only two students out of 800 +/- have been paddled so far this year and that she could opt him out if she so chooses. After going over my discipline policy, she seemed pleased and did not opt out. “My child would NEVER do anything like a LEVEL II or III or IV!” Yeah…Right! We will see…

FRIDAY: I get to come in later when we have a middle school varsity Thursday night home game. (My job is to shut down the school facilities after the game) But the work is waiting on my desk (Various paperwork) or seated outside my door (Somebody in trouble). Today, a student was seen with a knife in his backpack. This was no accident and a teacher/coach took it from him. He confessed that he just wanted to “show it off.” Whats next for middle school “show and tell”? A Glock 9mm? After conferring with his mom (A real mom-to-mom chat), it was decided that a paddling would be used instead of out-of-school-suspension. 3 swats from a male teacher with yours truly observing. With that comes 3 days I.S.S. Hey, he could have been out of school for five with another five I.S.S. so he got off light! The paddling itself was not too severe -I saw to that- but young man will NOT be showing off weapons on school grounds ever again!

 

COMING NEXT: TWP COMMENTARY, R.C. pt. III &

PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE week #4

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