30. A TEACHER TAKES A STAND & YOUR FAQ’s

SPECIAL NOTICE TO “SHERYL”: We at TWP are getting tired of your mistaken rants. We are sure that you probably have never been a full time teacher in your life and wouldn’t know what to do if you became a teacher. As to your classroom management suggestions -We use many of those every day so stop assuming things when you actually know nothing about us. So, we at TWP have a reading assignment for you: Read ALL of our posts and learn a little about us before sending this blog your comments. To facilitate this, we all decided to suspend your comment privileges by spamming them until next month. Until then Sheryl, GET BUSY READING!

Dear Readers: This new story came to us late last year during Christmas break and we had to wait until the new year to do a follow-up with the author -Just to check and see if the teacher was legit. She is -and her story will underline what we are all about at TWP. Of course, names and counties are kept confidential or are changed as per TWP’s privacy policy.

A TEACHER TAKES A STAND

 

Hello, my name is Mandy and I am a 2nd grade teacher in a rural county in the plateau region of Tennessee. I found out about your site by chance when, during a search on teacher education, I came across another blog that mentioned yours -in a very unflattering way. When I saw your first post and the other more recent ones, all I could do was nod in affirmation. The experiences of TWP are very much like my own except for one difference: I put my entire teaching career at risk in taking a stand against what I considered “abusive” corporal punishment.

I was born and raised in a suburban county just outside of Nashville and had a normal middle class life of girl scouts, swimming pool parties, dates (and a few no shows too!), and shopping Saturdays at the mall (too many to count). When I decided what college to attend, I just went where many of my friends attended -a midsized public university about one hour’s drive up the interstate. I did not decide on my major until after my first semester when a sorority sister talked about her choice of elementary education as a field of study. My family had doubts at first saying,”Are you sure you can handle TEACHING?…Its not like on t.v.!”

Well, I never back down from a challenge (This would serve me well later, it turned out). After four years, I graduated with a B.S. in elementary education and set out to “Change the world.” The first problem I encountered was that upper middle income school districts like the one I attended K -12 simply do not hire rookie teachers and have very little turnover of veteran teachers. I did burn up a lot of gas in my old sentra but the only prospects were the Nashville schools and a few small counties three or four hours drive from my home county. After visiting a few schools in inner-city Nashville for interviews, I knew that I was like a fish out of water. The elementary school I interviewed at was down the street from a housing project that was on the local news for the WRONG reasons. I was a “sheltered” suburban girl and was way out of my element. The no-deal was sealed when I heard that the attrition (non-retention) rate for 1st year teachers at the inner-city elementary school was nearly 50%! Also, that was the same percentage of 1st or 2nd year teachers assigned to teach at the school! I may have wanted to change the world -but too much is too much.

I almost ended up not teaching at all but got a call from a county that I had never heard of -just one week before school was to start. That was …. County, a small over looked district that had an unexpected vacancy and got my name from another county nearby that I had sent my resume to. This county was polar opposite from Nashville and was so rural, it had no stoplights! A culture shock of the opposite extreme from Nashville, this county was nestled in the rugged Cumberland region of middle-eastern Tennessee and was certainly an outdoor lover’s paradise.

However, I was a suburban shopping mall girl and decided to take the offer with the idea of eventually moving back closer to home instead of settling down permanently in an area where bears probably outnumbered people. The school where I was to teach was a tiny (by my standards) k-8 school with only one teacher per elementary grade level. I was to be the 2nd grade teacher and the 3rd grade teacher -Ann-who was to be my “coach,” was a thirty year educator. Only later would I find out what the purpose of the coaching was -And not to help on writing lesson plans.

The first school year with me as a teacher got off without a hitch as I was careful to listen to all the policies as outlined in the in-service meeting the morning before the first day of classes. Everything started out normal with the usual giggling and silly questions all new teachers get during the first week of class. Just as in my student teaching, the “new” wore off by the second week of homework assignments and my seven year olds started to act like…seven year olds!

Please understand, I knew about the school’s c.p. policy but mistakenly thought that was the principal’s job exclusively. It seems that the use of the paddle was only mentioned briefly and I did not read the words in the Code of Conduct, “…and other designates…” during the in-service meeting. That meant ME and I would be in for a surprise only three weeks into my new career.

One morning Ann knocked on my door as my students were starting on their English grammer. She just said,” I need you as a witness…” I nodded, not thinking that she was referring to a “paddling witness,” and followed her to the faculty break room. Once inside, I saw that she had one of her students waiting on us. Ann explained that Pete had not come in with his class at the end of recess and was to be paddled five times. When I mentioned the principal, Ann just shook her head and said, ” Around here, we don’t call on Mr. Roberts every time there is a problem!…We are in charge of our own students and we handle problems ourselves!”

Before I could utter another word, Ann reached up to a shelf and picked up the largest paddle I’d ever seen -a 24″ x 4″ x 1/2″ monster that teacherswhopaddle would certainly have rated as “Inappropriate!” Ann then ordered Pete to bend over a chair, lined up the paddle with Pete’s jean back pockets, and -holding with both hands -reared back almost a half circle and said with a wink, “This is how its done…”

I was in shock and in a near state of panic as I could almost felt like my jaw was dropping to the floor in horror. The first lick was like a gunshot and actually caused Pete to nearly stumble forward. The next four licks were as hard or harder and Pete, a smallish but rough looking kid, was reduced to crying like a three year old.

Ann smiled and whispered, “They all do that…Don’t let it bother you.”

“Well, it DOES ‘bother’ me and that is the last time I will EVER be your witness!” I snapped. “No child ever deserves to be paddled like that!”

I then stormed back to my class but was shaken by what I had seen for the rest of the day. When I left that evening, the lateness of the day was the only thing that kept me from going straight back to my hometown instead of my rental house just a few miles from the school. Talking to my parents, in general terms, I was encouraged to take a stand when you know “something” is not right -After all, if it is truly important, walking away only hurts the kids. (Daddy is so awesome!)

With these words in my heart, I set out to change what I thought was an abusive situation. But don’t misunderstand me: I did not become an anti-c.p. crusader. I accepted that the paddle could be an option but never like what happened the previous day. Because I was new, I knew that change would not be overnight.

Every journey starts with a first step and I took two. First, I took a photo of the “monster” paddle and second, I informed Mr. Roberts,” I am out of the ‘witness’ business as long as that paddle is in this building…And the school board will see this picture if I ever hear of any future complaints involving that paddle!” Mr. Roberts nodded (I exhaled) and seemed to admire my moxie. He warned,”I understand your feelings about discipline but be sure to not push too hard and alienate yourself from everyone else…Mandy dear, most of the teachers and myself are more like you than Ann.”

While I was relieved that Mr. Roberts was leaning in my direction, it was also understood by everyone that Ann had some “pull” in the community and no one could run her off -especially a first year teacher. My intention would be to change everyone else first. Before that step, there would be another paddling confrontation -with Ann, of course.

It happened only a couple of weeks later when, during lunch, one of my students threw a fork at someone else. Ann was monitoring while the other teachers and myself were eating at the “teacher table.” When Ann grabbed Chuck and wisked him out of the cafeteria, I immediately got up and pursued the two as they headed for the lounge down the hall.

“Hold on, Ann -Thats MY student and I will deal with him!” I exclaimed while shutting the door behind me.

Ann responded,” O.k., Mandy -Here you go!” and handed me the “monster” paddle.

“Nope, Ann -That will not be needed- I have my own.” Then, I pulled a small, recently procured paddle out of my purse which is the size of a ping pong paddle and also as thick.

Ann sneered and spat,”Alright…But don’t expect me to be your witness after today!”

“Fine, and just so you know…After today, you are going to have a harder time getting witnesses if you insist on using that ‘monster’,” I replied as I then took Chuck, who was outside the door, in and told him,”Chuck, what you did was wrong and someone could have had an eye injury from that fork you threw!”

“I’m sorry…” Chuck tearfully pleaded.

“I know you are…But I cannot just let you get away with doing something that might injure someone else…So, I am going to give you one swat -as a warning- because next time it will be three,” I implored.

I then had Chuck bend over a small chair and gave him a single stinging swat and sent him back to the cafeteria.

“Thats it?” Ann questioned.

“Yes Ann, THATS IT and after the teacher’s meeting this afternoon -This, holding up my small paddle, will be the only paddle used in this school -Unless you can find another teacher who will agree to witness “monster paddlings.”

Ann just turned and walked away shaking her head muttering,”Young, know-it-all…”

Well, the other teachers needed only a little selling on my revised paddle and all except Ann went along which forced Ann to change since she was the odd one out. Though the paddle is still an option, the severity has been moderated. As for me, I rarely ever use it but in my ten years teaching, former students of mine that I have paddled have told me,” When I get in trouble, I’d rather you paddle me than…” I always have a good laugh when I hear that!

Hey, Renee dear, I was reading you post ABOUT US and saw that you are the outdoors type -I am too! Living out here “grows” on you and I am an avid hiker-convert along with my husband. We have within one hour’s drive Cumberland State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Center Hill Lake -just to mention a few. Maybe we will run into you some weekend!

 

Dear Mandy, I’ve been to Fall Creek Falls and it is spectacular! Later this spring, I’ll drag my hubby from his spring ritual of t.v. baseball and revisit one of those parks. Just be on the lookout for a petite red haired hiker wearing an U.G.A. sweater AND trooping up a trail!

 

YOUR FAQ’s

 

What is TWP’s opinion of the well-worn quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child?”

We at TWP do not have a position on that for two reasons. First, it is really connected to the question of discipline in the home whereas TWP’s focus is on school discipline. Discipline in the home and family is beyond the intended scope of this blog. The site we link to- SPANK WITH LOVE- is an excellent source for parents and its mission statement is the reason why we decided to link with it. Second, the quote has different theological interpretations -which is above our “pay grade.” We will leave that to the theologians to work out.

TWP does realize that other industrial nations are outlawing all forms of corporal punishment/child abuse? So, why should the U.S. be like Nazi Germany -who was the only nation to ever re-instate c.p.?

Dear Readers, believe it or not -This is a line of reasoning that we have seen on more than a few comments. First, check our post U.S. and WORLD CORPORAL PUNISHMENT to see the general differences (cane vs. paddle). As to Nazi Germany which murdered millions -Anyone who even THINKS there is a similarity has problems we can’t solve with this blog. I dare any idiot who thinks that way to express their lunacy to a crusty old WWII veteran. Just look out for the walking cane because many of them played baseball in their youth!

Why don’t you try non violent alternatives to paddling?

We get emails every day with suggestions on alternatives. Folks, we are professional educators with real teaching jobs who have used many different strategies in our careers. (Are you reading this, “Sheryl?”) All of us have used the following over the years of our teaching experience: Enforce rules fairly and consistently,Make rules and consequences easy to understand, Innovative lesson plans, Encourage success, Extra help for slow learners, Monitor for misbehavior (What do you think we do all day -watch daytime dramas on t.v.?), and social situation role playing -We do this about three times a week. Thanks to these and other alternatives, we have resorted to the paddle very rarely. Of course, the junk suggestions -likely from non-teachers- simply will not work in the real world of the real classroom: Student Rulemaking (We are not kidding), Peer Mediation (We think thats for labor-management meetings, not school classrooms) and our favorite: More Emphasis on Self-Esteem. TWP suggests that readers check these posts: PT II WHY TWP OPPOSES PADDLING IN SECONDARY SCHOOLSAlternatives and EDITORIAL: SELF-ESTEEM AND DISCIPLINE. These posts should clearly explain our position on various discipline options.

 

COMING NEXT: Ingraham v. Wright: THE AFTERMATH AND WHY IT MATTERS

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YOUR FAQ’s

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