79. A RETIRED TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS IV, R.C. pt. XIX & PROF. N. REPLIES/TWP RESPONDS

A RETIRED TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE

Hello TEACHERSWHOPADDLE. My name is Katherine and I am one of those “old school” teachers who taught your parents and maybe your grandparents too! My grandaughter found your site by chance and showed me how to bookmark it on MY computer. Let it never be said that you are too old to learn something new.

In reading all of your posts, I must say that I am not in 100% agreement with your statements on paddling and discipline policy. However, each generation must figure out its own way. Renee, what I have to say based on my own experiences may conflict with some of your own views but I respect differences in opinion…and only wish this country would do the same in general.

Like all the writers of TWP, I too was young and idealistic when finishing my teacher training at a private Normal college which is what they called teacher colleges years ago. I was a fairly smart Texas girl but opportunities for women in the 1950s were much more limited than today. In 1958, I landed a teaching job in a small Texas town where cattle and oil rigs outnumbered people. And the idea of paddling misbehaving children was an accepted norm of that community.

In becoming a teacher, I accepted that premise while feeling that doing so was a necessary “evil” which had to be done to discourage misbehavior. As a child, I had seen severe paddlings meted out and knew that as a teacher, I would need to do the same if need be.

On my first day, I explained to my 3rd grade class the basic rules and then told them that the paddle would be used when students broke the rules. I had been told that my desk had a paddle in it but prior to the first day of class, hadn’t looked at it. When I pulled it out, I was aghast. It was 21″ x 3″ x 1/2″ and lined with large holes. The class laughed a little, noticing my own discomfort.

I truly was uncomfortable with the weight and size of that paddle because of the age of my students. And teachers had no detention hall, I.S.S. or recess sit ins -MUCH LESS OPT OUTS. I was a concerned teacher alright -But was told by the other teachers: This is the way we do it! But “Determination” could have been my middle name and I looked around and check with the janitor as to where storage closets might be located.

Only a few days into the first week, I lucked out and found a tennis racket shaped paddle that was somewhat less heavy and more oval shaped. It was about 18″ long and 1/2″ thick (or less) and looking at it, I felt like this would be just the right size for my class. I did have a few tiny holes drilled in it since test-swinging revealed that without holes, my “new” paddle was very fan-like and certainly had more air-drag.

Good thing I found it because the next day I had to use it. Up until then, I had warned students not to misbehave. As TWP knows all too well, a new teacher will be tested by the students. I do remember that first paddling for throwing a paper wad.  I marched the culprit up to the front, pulled out my “racket” paddle, bent the boy over my desk and swatted him 5 times. When he stood up with teary eyes, I detected giggling, smirks and grins. I felt awful for the boy and was totally incensed by the attitude of the class. I then proceeded to “chew out” the class for their insensitivity and warned that any mistreatment of the boy I had just paddled would result in another paddling for the teaser.

Well, that certainly was not the last paddling. From that day until Thanksgiving break, I averaged about one paddling a day and sometimes as many as 3 or 4 in one day! Because of what happened with the first paddling, I broke with the prevailing tradition of that day and started paddling in the hall outside the classroom door. I must admit -There was a “nice” echo effect that seemed to have a profound impact on the other students as well as the ones receiving the paddling. My teacher friends did NOT appreciate the sounds at all but I did not back down on the new procedure and, in fact, hung my paddle on the wall next to the doorway.

Another tradition was giving 10 to 12 swats regardless of offense or grade level. To me, that was just too many and I didn’t mind being thought of as “soft” because my students would have definitely disputed that notion. Minor infractions meant 5 to 7 swats, repeat or more serious 8 to 10 swats and re-repeats or major 11 to 12.

A rare case of 12 swats involved a bully who hit and hurt another student in the eye, causing a black eye. This is the only paddling in which I was truly angry and I used the old paddle instead. I also chose to do the paddling in front of the class because I felt justice demanded it. This was a hard 12 swat barrage and when finished, I made the boy turn and face the class with tears and apologize for what he had done.

Ladies of TWP, I know you probably would call me abusive but what we teachers did all those years ago was to lay the foundation for the America of the late 20th century. Except for a few cases like the one I mentioned, no paddling from me resulted in anything more than the most superficial bruising, if that much. More likely, just reddened and stinging bottoms. And as to behavior: After that first few months, the no nonsense discipline message seemed to take hold because I rarely had to paddle in the second half of the year.

The “old ways” were sometimes harsh but is what prevails today better? School Resource Officers (armed with tazers), students with weapons and teachers being assaulted/raped? My daughter started out as a teacher but when her state outlawed paddling, her school district just lowered the standards for acceptable student behavior. She finally gave up because her school didn’t consider profanity directed at teachers as a “big deal”. She also encouraged both of my grandkids to look into some other field than education to major in at college.

As a grandmother, I have softened up some but still believe that children MUST be held accountable for their actions including with the use of paddling when merited. If one disagrees with me, they need to ask themselves a simple question: Would you place the future fate of America -or the world for that matter- in the hands of today’s school children? Because, like it or not, the future IS going to be in their hands some day.

Something to think about as you try to sleep tonight.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS IV

This feature is from Jenny, the science wiz 4th grade teacher opposite the hallway from Michelle, our other 4th grade teacher. I had some reservations about this feature in our blog because I really didn’t have much to say as to a “close encounter”. I had to think back as to anything that could be even remotely considered. Then I recalled a few years ago an incident that solidified my belief that we at TWP were in the “right” as to our stance on the use of school c.p.

It happened or a better way of saying, started at my church. Unlike the other contributors who attend churches well out of the county where we live (For various reasons, I guess.), I chose to attend a rather liberal mainline church within our county. It was my husband’s and my idea early on and we have had no problems whatsoever. As to students of mine, I see a few of them now and then but it is no big deal since the church is quite large in attendance. I sing in the choir and one time before Sunday school had started, a student of mine attempted to get me to fill in for a Sunday school teacher who was out sick! I declined of course, simply stating, “I’ve got you Monday through Friday…So, let me have my weekends off…o.k.?”

One Sunday at the end of the service while I was putting my choir robe up, one of my students came up to me with a memo from the Youth Bulletin board and politely handed it to me. I glanced at it and it was about a youth council in another state calling for the abolition OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOL! I just quietly shook my head and handed it back saying, “This has nothing to do with me.”

Then his mom stepped forward among the throng of people headed for various exits. “Actually, Mrs. …., it does and this national church body endorses that ‘Youth Resolution’.”

As I waited for my Tommy to make his way from Children’s Church to where we were standing, I made my position clear: C.P. where I teach is quite rare but a part of school policy. I also emphasized that I detested the use of paddling in class discipline but did so when extreme behavior warranted it.

As Tommy and I headed out the door to the car where Tom SR. was waiting, the strange conversation continued with this mother comparing what I do as a teacher in using a paddle to Gitmo! Reaching the car, I turned and politely told her, “Mrs. …., you are VERY MISTAKEN and by your last comment, demonstrate your ignorance about this issue…So lets just agree to disagree, o.k.?…And as to your son -He is one of the best behaved students in my class!”

“Then why don’t you just prove to me that your paddling is non-abusive…Show me your board that you call a ‘paddle’,” Mrs. …. replied.

I was tired of this “conversation” and just wanted to eat lunch at the Buffet Restaurant we go to every Sunday. But hearing the word “prove” set me off and I responded, “Follow us to the school…It is not far and I do have keys.”

My husband and child were not exactly gung-ho about this detour but I knew the main door would be open since a group did use the school as a “church” on Sundays. And one of the group “elders” was none other than ol’ Clyde, our school janitor.

As we arrived, that group was just leaving and Clyde hadn’t locked the main door yet. My keys which unlock the classroom wing and my room door were used as the kids waited outside.

Going straight to my desk, I pulled out my paddle that had only been used once all school year and handed it to Mrs. …. stating, “I do not believe Gitmo has these…”

“This is your paddle?…It is so thin and light…Is it the only hitting instrument you use?” Mrs. …. questioned as she swung it a couple times mockingly.

“Yes, this is the ONLY paddle I will ever use and…I do NOT swing it the way you just did,” I answered. ‘ That paddle is thin and light weight for a reason…Neither myself nor the other teachers in this school that use similar paddles seek to injure any of our students beyond an initial sting and some moderate discomfort.”

The lady laid the paddle on my desk, turned around and walked out without a word. But I did hear her mutter something about paddlers so the next morning, I placed her boy on the opt out list myself. My thinking is: If you feel this strongly, I will not fight you over it. Her son never got into serious trouble but if he had -Suspension for 3 days would have been the result. His mom couldn’t opt out of that!

I never heard or saw her ever again at the church.

 

PROF. N. RESPONDS/TWP REPLIES

Our post on CHILD ABUSER/TEACHERS got a strong response from across the “pond” at the U.K. Prof. N.’s perspective below is in Bold and ours follow.

I was horrified at the idea that any kindergarten having a paddle! Many kids will say a spanking didn’t hurt regardless- every teacher has heard of bravado! To give extra because someone says it doesn’t hurt….that should have set alarm bells ringing! Same with bruising . There should be NO WAY a child of that aged is bruised by any punishment. The whole idea is sickening!


As to the other case,  repeating a spanking three times over , well that really is a no brainer!!!!  Three spankings in one day for a 9 year old! Where are this ladies brains!! Has her common sense gone on holiday! Why did they not even try to get the parents in that day? Three infractions? Maybe the child should have been sent home until the reason could be ascertained  or he had stopped being hyperactive? Sounds like a school whose teaching staff are all lacking in that vital commodity for all teachers, but more so at elementary level , warmth and understanding……

In my view the first case is definitely abusive , the second lies somewhere between deliberate  abuse and reckless stupidity.

Now should the staff involved just be dismissed ? A few words of caution. First , to end someones career and take their pension is a very very difficult decision and should be a final , ‘there is no other option’, type of sanction. It is a life changing decision and can affect a whole family.You could be taking a step that influences a whole raft of people , including kids….. It is an awesome decision.

Take the kindergarten teacher. Until we investigate we don’t know whether she was following recommended practice in the kindergaten. Yes, she isn’t fit to teach now, but should we take responsibility and retrain her, not throw her and the investment in her career on the scrapheap? Or is she just plain unsuitable as a teacher?

In the elementary school, what little I know from the report leads me already to conclude it is inadequately managed and badly led. But has that been reflected over time ? Matters have to be put in context. We need all the facts  and to remember that we owe employees a duty of care as well as our students.


I don’ t differ with your analysis of the incidents, I just think it is often too simple to load 100% of the blame on the staff teacher. I’ve always found that the environment and culture of a school comes from its leadership and they should be held equally if not more responsible as they set the agenda. So we should never rush to judgement……if it doesn’t fit you must aquit!

Thanks for your reasoned comments on a difficult issue, Pro. N.

First point that I and the other TWP contributors wish to make is that you our readers know as much as we know. There has been no contradicting information on these cases that we are aware of. Therefore, our conclusions were based on what was in the written record that we have. Because the facts have not changed, to our knowledge, our conclusions remain the same: Teresa Gregory and Mrs. Grimsley are CHILD ABUSERS and Linda Smith is an assessory to CHILD ABUSE.

Second, the reason for our conclusion is similar to yours but with an added weight of responsibility. All three educators are veteran in the field which they work. “I made a mistake!” is a child’s excuse and we at TWP believe the bar must be set extremely high when it comes to the use of discipline by educators in our schools. And just because school  policy doesn’t forbid something doesn’t mean you can do it either.

Finally, as to “due process”-Of course you must have a process in place. If I (Renee) were the principal over Teresa Gregory, I would have to file a termination recommendation with the school board but I definitely would have pushed for immediate termination. Jf the board did not back me, I would have permanently banned Ms. Gregory from EVER physically disciplining any child ever again. And to back that up, I would have random surprise inspections of her classroom to ensure that no paddles were in her possession. She would also be put on notice that ANY complaints from parents would lead to immediate dismissal from employment. Last, I would “encourage” Ms. Gregory to seek a job with another district but NOT to expect a positive reference from me.

 

RENEE CHRONICLES pt. XIX

Bullies

There is a myth out there that girls do not have “bully” troubles -Or if they do, it is only about teasing or name-calling at the worst.

WRONG…on both counts.

Girls ARE just less open and up front about it. But it can and DOES get physical. I know. Because I was on the receiving end of some very malicious and PHYSICAL bullying as a 13 year old middle school girl myself.

A girl I will call Nicole was a rough type girl whom other girls tried to stay away from. My problem was that my gym locker was next to hers. It started with “put-downs” about my being smaller and petite and progressed to threats and pushing me out of her way. (She was a real space hog and felt that she “owned” the area around her locker.) And this problem was the worst when the lady p.e. gym teacher was NOT there.

Since snitching was not a reliable option (What happens when teacher isn’t around?), I “consulted” with my dear beloved brothers. After they laughed for a good 5 minutes, they then reassured and told me, “You have to be willing to stand up for yourself because the teachers are not there to be your ‘protectors’.” Then, they proceeded to train lil sis in the fine art of “hand to hand combat”.

Actually, my big brothers taught me some techniques of flipping someone who grabs you from behind which Nicole was prone to do. I found out something about myself too: I may be smallish but a lot stronger than I look. A few days of toss and tumble with my brothers showed that.

Then there was the showdown.

When Nicole told me, “Get out of my way, bitch…”, I just turned and calmly (My heart was pounding), “Nicole…First thing, you do not ‘own’ this locker room and second, it takes a ‘bitch’ to know one!”

As I turned and started to walk towards the shower stalls, you could have heard a pin drop.

“We’ll see about that…BITCH…” Nicole bellowed as she started to grab me around my neck

I was waiting for that and, just as my brothers taught me, I reached back and grabbed one arm while pulling and then flipping Nicole over right on to her side and rear end. Nicole screamed like she had been shot. When the lady p.e. teacher came rushing in, she asked what had happened but to my relief, no one said a word. Nicole was bruised on the elbow and the butt but never ratted…nor bullied me ever again. Nicole left our school after that term ended and I never saw her again.

The lady p.e. teacher did tell me a day later, “Renee, I have a pretty good idea what happened yesterday but Nicole had it coming…She WAS a bully but I do not think she will cause any more problems…I did not ‘see’ what you did to her and Nicole isn’t talking…So no one is in trouble…” At the last part, the teacher gave me a quick “wink” and I went on my way.

I do not advocate what I did but more than a few girls gave me a thumbs up about the whole matter. As to the present -My policy as an assistant principal is to require ALL gym classes to be supervised by a teacher at all times and for gym classes to stay together from tardy bell to dismissal.

Bullies thrive only when there is an absence of adult supervision.

 

COMING NEXT:

A TWP COMMENTARY ON C.P. AND TEACHER TRAINING,

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS V

&

R.C. pt. XX

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