15. WENDY’S WORST(?) PADDLING & EDITORIAL: RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR

Dear readers: We at TWP have received a number of comments and questions about our last post and our editorial. In that editorial, we made the point that administrative responsibility for the opt-out policy lies first with the principal. As the “captain of the ship,” it is his/her job to see that the school board policies are carried out- neither making nor hindering school policy. In that blog, we criticized the bungling of the c.p. policy in one Tennessee district- but this was an exceptional case. In the great majority of schools, the principals do an outstanding job that most people would fail at in the first week. The following editorial is a “Help-Tip” guide for administrators and general readers so that the problems that sometimes arise with c.p. can be avoided.

EDITORIAL: RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR

Most things in life are or should be simple and straight forward. In the school setting, homework turned in correct and on time gets good marks, breaking in line gets you sent to the rear of the line, and most important: When a parents refuses to sign a opt-out form during registration, that should mean parental approval for the use of the paddle. IF ONLY LIFE WERE THAT SIMPLE!

It must be understood that in the U.S., people move around more than ever before with their career changes and/or promotions. As such, local school administrators and school boards must be aware of a simple fact of life: Just because “Bubba” Joe from Buffalo,N.Y. moves his family to Cartersville, Georgia does NOT mean he will automatically change his perspectives on cultural issues to what the Cartersville locals consider as “normal.” Specifically, it may be a mistake to assume that Bubba and his wife Mary will be supportive of a teacher or principal paddling their son Billy- regardless of the original reason for the paddling.

The fact is that too many lawsuits and embarrassing publicity blunders have been the result of the assumption that “everything’s local.” In fact, some people, who are not native to an area, have very different values and cultural understandings than their neighbors. So, when Billy comes home and shows his paddled bottom to Bubba and Mary, the #*%* hits the fan- never mind that when signing up 9 year old Billy for school, Mary glossed over the opt-out form or thought it was a “Consent To Paddle” form. The school district will win all legal challenges in court but legal expenses and out of court settlements can still be costly. At the very least, good ol’ Jordan Riak gets to whine about how bad southern schools are and how good non-paddling schools are supposed to be.

The tips below are “Red Flags” that school administrators should carefully watch for and by doing so, avoid the problems in the example mentioned above. Hey, if these tips are followed, Mr. Riak might have to get a REAL JOB! We can always wish, can’t we?

TIP #1: If a new student not from the area shows up on the first day of school, someone needs to check his file. If the student is from outside the southeastern U.S., regardless of if the opt-out form was signed or not, that is a red flag! In this case, the school needs to confirm that the parents understand the discipline policy, including the policy on paddling.

TIP #2: When checking a new student’s file, take note of how many prior schools were attended. If student has attended two or more schools in the previous year, that is a red flag to be checked out. It could be that one of the parents might be in the military or in a job that calls for frequent relocations. Of course, if one finds out that the parents have ongoing lawsuits against other school districts- that is a MAJOR RED FLAG and student must be immediately opted-out of all corporal punishment. There are parents who troll around parts of the country suing school districts over discipline policy.

TIP #3: Listen carefully to the new student if you are uncertain. If he/she says something negative when the topic of classroom rules and the paddle are mentioned on the first day of school- that is a red flag. If the comment is “Where I come from, they don’t do that!” or “I think that is so mean…” then the teacher must make the principal aware so the opt-out status may be confirmed and parents contacted if need be.

TIP #4: If the behavior of the student indicates that he/she does Not believe the teacher is an authority figure, this may be a red flag. Most all students do things they should not do on occasion but persistence in disobeying procedures and instructions are signs not to be ignored. Most schools in non-paddling states have an extremely permissive discipline environment. One example is the use of profanity which is not considered a “big deal” in some northern states but is dealt with severely in our school district. See story “WENDY’S WORST(?) PADDLING” below which deals with profanity in the classroom.

TIP #5: Pay close attention to the parent(s) when they meet with teachers. If the parent sides with their child in a “knee jerk” reflex, that is a red flag on all discipline issues. This requires solid administrative backing of the teachers and a willingness of administrators to communicate clearly that “Just because Billy could … in Buffalo does NOT mean Billy can … in our school here!” That takes leadership and courage because in non-paddling states, most people consider teachers as “glorified baby-sitters” and not as authority figures in loco parentis.

WENDY’S WORST(?) PADDLING

Hello everybody! This is my first direct story submission which actually happened just a few weeks ago. Let me start by saying that, like Renee, Jenny, and Michelle, I also detest the need to use paddling in school discipline. We all wish that paddling would be unnecessary and that, instead, we could do what we spent four years of college studying to do: Teach young children in school and by doing so, make a positive impact on their future education. As a young teacher myself, I am idealistic but unfortunately, reality popped up when I least expected it.

One morning, during computer time, while I was grading some homework just turned in – a commotion started in back of the room. I also thought that a “late night show word” had been uttered.

“Mike said a bad word!” exclaimed one of the girls- pointing a finger at Mike, one of my rough-and-tumble, all-boy students.

I called each of the students around Mike up to the front one by one and asked,”What did Mike say?”

They each said to me in a whisper,”He said the A-S-S word!”

I nodded and smiled to myself thinking, “I have heard worse on t.v.-unfortunately.”

I then called up a panicky Mike who could only blurt, “I didn’t say anything…Please don’t paddle me!” (I had not paddled anyone this year but some kids have tagged me as a hard paddler-without merit, in my opinion!)

“Just tell me the truth, Michael…What did you say…I’m going to go light on you this time-since you have not been in any trouble so far this year,” I replied.

“NO!…I didn’t say anything!…I swear!” retorted Mike.

The four others all chimed in, saying “Stop lying, Mike!”,”Just admit it, will ya!”and “Why lie about it, Mike-We heard you!”

Dismissing the other students back to the computers, I knew that I had a “special situation” which might result in a paddling for a first offense but Mr. Smith, our principal would need to make the determination.

With Michelle watching my class for me (Michelle’s class was at recess with Jenny’s), I took a trembling Mike to the office while thinking,”This day was going so well…”

At the office- on a one-on-one talk with Mr.Smith, it was decided (to my relief) that if Mike would just admit to what he said- the worst punishment would only be a few days sitting in during recess and no computer time. But Mr. Smith did insist that no specific promises be made- so that all future problems could be handled on a case-by-case basis. Still, I was relieved as we stepped to the front to a waiting and worried Mike.

“O.k., Mike- Its time to tell us what you said because if you do-we will not come down hard or severe…I promise you!” I pleaded to Mike.

Like an old broken record, Mike replied, “I did not say anything!”

Mr. Smith and I decided that if Mike was confronted by his classmates, he would surely fess up. Walking back to my class, I thought,”That stupid Jay Leno and his ‘push the envelope on t.v. language’…I’d like to paddle that fart-bag right now!”

The result was no different back at my room- The kids all agreed that Mike said A-S-S and in response Mike was Clintonesque in response.

“Last chance, Mike…Just tell the truth…We are not going to be hard on you…” I pleaded-But to no avail.

“Alright then, for lying to everyone- YOU WILL GET THE PADDLE!…Wendy, get your paddle out and lets go!” Mr. Smith snapped as he pulled a pale faced Mike out of the room. Feeling knots in my stomach, I took my new reb’s “TAKE ALONG” paddle out of my desk drawer and followed the two out the door towards the conference room. Michelle just shook her head in disbelief as I left the room.

In the conference room, I started to feel a little ticked off- I dislike paddling students and honestly believe that 5th graders are getting to be too old for the paddle. One reason I got the somewhat thicker and heavier new paddle was that I felt that seeing a more intimidating one might deter misbehavior like what had just occurred: continuous lying. I was about to use it on a very deserving rear end and it was then that I decided to make the most of it by giving a paddling Mike would not forget.

With Mr. Smith looking on, I took careful aim, lining up the paddle with the lower portion of Mike’s blue-jeaned bottom while asking if there was anything in the back pockets. When Mike said “No” , I replied, “Mike, you have only yourself to blame for this…Tell the truth and you sit in for a few days of recess…But lying to Mr. Smith, your classmates, and Me…This is the result!”

I then reared back with the paddle and swung it hard, connecting with Mike’s bottom with a “SMACK” that sounded like a firecracker going off. Mike flinched and yelped, “Owww!”

I then followed through with another sound swat “SMACK” that caused Mike to “OUCH!” and start crying. He then pleaded, “No more…I’m sorry…”

“I am too- but you are getting five- all for lying!” I responded as number three landed even harder with a “SMACK” which Mike responded to with sobs and more “Owww’s.”

With Mike’s knees starting to quiver, I decided to pick up the pace and delivered the final two hardest swats in rapid-fire sequence “SMACK-SMACK” which led Mike to bawl like a baby.

“Turn around, Mike and face me!” I ordered.

Mike complied and the look of pain and shame did touch me a little. Unlike Michelle however, I was not so tenderhearted as to be near tears myself. I really felt like this was on Mike and he had to own up.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself, Michael?” I asked to which a teary faced Mike answered, “I I I I am s s s sorry…I won’t ever lie again…I promise!”

“Good!…Then lets go back to the room…You are still out of recess for three days for the language…The paddling was only for the lying-Understand?” I implored.

Mike just nodded as we then left to return to room 5-b while Mr. Smith walked back to the office. Because Mike was still trying to regain his composure, I had a little empathy for him and allowed a few more minutes outside the room. I then escorted Mike back into the room and put the paddle back in the desk drawer as a wide-eyed Michelle looked on. Michelle shook her head a little on the way out but when we talked about the paddling later, she understood the way I felt about the whole matter. I really think Michelle is too mild mannered (She disagrees) but we do agree on one thing: You can only give so many second chances before your options run out and the paddle becomes the only option left.

As to Mike, I have tried to put this behind us the best I could. That afternoon during recess, I explained how his lying alone caused the paddling but that a repeat of the word he used would result in the paddle. I also made sure he understood how much I disliked having to use a paddle and that I thought he was too old for the paddle. He was glum for a few days and I slowly integrated him back into the normal class routines. Lately, Mike been acting like normal (or what passes for normal) and I have not had any major problems with Mike or any other student since. I did hear from his mom a day later asking, “What did Mike do to have a red butt last night?…I warned him that trouble in school means bigger trouble at home.” Not wanting Mike to be in more trouble, I just explained to her that Mike was punished at school and that the matter was taken care of. She seemed to let it go and the matter has not come up again.

So, that is my most recent paddling experience as a 5th grade teacher. Please let me know what you think by sending TO this blog your comments and/or criticisms. But remember…be polite and NO PROFANITY!

COMING NEXT: RENEE’S HALLOWEEN (AND FIRST) PADDLING and the NEWEST FAQ’S

 

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