13. EDITORIAL:SELF-ESTEEM & DISCIPLINE, PADDLING IN SECONDARY SCHOOL: A CLARIFICATION

Dear Readers: Thanks for your comments, both positive and negative- this blog has been aided by your input which helps us to focus on what issues matter most. From the comments we have received, there are important philosophical differences in what people believe constitutes an education. We at TWP, as members of the education profession, care very deeply about the educational progress of our students- that is why we decided to be teachers. The following editorial reaches beyond the original scope of our blog but we felt that some questions about the learning process and the classroom environment needed to be answered.

EDITORIAL

It never ceases to amaze us at TWP that people seem to think that all we do as teachers is carry paddles around and hit the children in our classrooms every time they do something wrong. If the people who think that way were to visit our classrooms, they would be surprised at how normal things really are. (Or what passes for “normal,” anyway!) All the classes at our school average 20 to 25 pupils per room with slightly more at the upper grade levels, typical school desks arranged in rows, teacher desks to front or side and an average of about a dozen computers in backof the rooms. No where would you see any paddles hanging anywhere. The visitor dropping in on one of our classrooms would be hard pressed to determine if our school even uses paddles.

But if you stayed long enough, you might notice a couple of things. First, the students are better behaved towards their teachers and their peers. That is not to say that there are no problems but rather this: The students know exactly who is in charge of the classroom- and it is NOT the students. Second, real education takes place in our classrooms. All the teachers in our school, including Wendy, Michelle, Jenny, and I (Renee) all believe in the idea that academic success CREATES positive self-esteem. This is the exact opposite of what has occured in too many schools across the nation for too many years.

The big lie in education is that one could make the child feel good about himself by lying to him. For example, when the answer given is wrong- telling the child that his answer is right is not only unethical but in TWP’s opinion, is immoral. As educators, we strive every day to create a positive learning enviroment but we will not tell a child in our classroom that his wrong answer is right just to make the child feel good.

Our approach is the exact opposite to what is being passed off as education throughout much of the U.S. Rather than a phony emphasis on self esteem over student academic success, we sometimes have to go over concepts many times, but persistence has its own rewards- for both teacher and student. To see a child’s eyes light up when they finally grasp a concept is gratifying to any educator and that success creates real self-esteem.

So then, the question for educators is: How to create a learning environment conducive for academic success. The answer one gives determines the success or failure of both teacher and students. If the choice is self-esteem at the start, which is based on nothing, the result will be chaos in the classroom and a lack of academic progress. A contradiction of anti-c.p. zealots is to state that young children cannot understand rules but on the other hand claim that the children should be left in charge to make their own rules. This type of mentality is self contradictory and no classroom can exist as a learning environment where there are no rules and the children are left to themselves with no direction.

There is a name for this- educational anarchy- and the biggest losers are the children themselves. If you doubt this, check out the drop-out rates of California which has doubled in recent years to about 25%. As we have stated in other blogs, it is an invalid assumption to compare a Southeastern state with the most populated state in the nation. However, I have met educators from the West Coast and they all have told me the same thing: Student conduct is deteriorating at an increasing rate at all levels and this is starting to negatively impact educational progress.

We at TWP will not attempt to prescribe a cure for academic under achievement, but will state plainly what works for our classrooms. Our kids know that hitting, profanity, stealing,etc. is unacceptable and that there are consequences for these actions- and those consequences are more than just a “talking to.” Our disciplinary measures range from repermands to loss of recess time to the phone call home. Of course, after warnings about the paddle fail, the paddle does become an option. Unlike what some comments seem to suggest, the paddle is our last option and is not used often. In the last year, the paddle was used by the four contributors of TWP a total of six times! So the myth of we at TWP as frequent paddlers is totally false.

What is working for us is consistent, firm, but fair discipline which has resulted in the academic achievement of our students. For example, none of our students have ever had to repeat a grade level and that has led to a positive self-esteem based on actual academic success. Finally, for those who think we are overly strict- We have had students (including some that we had to paddle!) come and tell us on the last school day “You were a great teacher this year and we will miss you!”

That is something we wish every teacher could experience- it is PRICELESS!

FAQ’s

Why do you insist on the use of paddling when non-paddling states have higher incomes and academic achievement?

First, you should look back at a previous FAQ in which we discussed the problems of comparing dissimilar states and school districts. Also, if you are going to compare states or school districts- it must be apples to apples, not apples to oranges. There are great differences between states in terms of income but these differences predate paddling bans in some cases. In addition, what about the urban inner city schools? In most southern large cities, there has been no paddling for decades- yet these same areas are poor and the schools are some of the worst in their states. These facts alone blow the anti-paddling premise “out of the water!” As to richer states, many of those states have always be among the wealthier in the nation and if you go back-You will find a history of corporal punishment in some of those states. You will also notice no significant change in income status of these states when they dropped c.p. in their schools. So, the task is to find a wealthy state that never has had legal c.p. but has consistently led the national average academically and compare that state to a demographically similar state that does have legal c.p. in its schools. Good luck!

PADDLING IN SECONDARY SCHOOL: A CLARIFICATION

We are continually astounded by the polar opposite opinions contained in the reader’s comments- especially with regards to our blog on opposing corporal punishment in secondary schools. These comments have ranged from “These 13 to 17 year olds need c.p. the most!” to “Why don’t you just go ALL the way and eliminate ALL paddling in ALL schools instead of compromising…” Keep in mind that these folks all saw the same blog through the narrow prism of their own biases.

First, lets be clear about one thing: We at TWP never advocated the legal banning of paddling at any school level. This includes the school board which should leave c.p. policy alone- If there is a pro-c.p. policy, DON’T MUCK IT UP! We support school boards but they can make a mess of policy sometimes- the less they do, sometimes the better. Of course, these same school boards should be open to the suggestions of educators actively working in the schools.

Second, we believe that if paddling is ever eliminated, it must be by administrators who run the schools such as principals. We did not communicate this clearly to our readers- that is our boo-boo. We also should have better conveyed to our readers that eliminating secondary school paddling is a goal predicated on the success of other options such as detention hall and in school suspension. With these other options being mandatory, the paddle would no longer be an opt-out option. That is how we believe paddling would eventually disappear since students could not opt out of I.S.S. by choosing the paddle. The ultimate objective of discouraging bad behavior by these students would be achieved when they realize that I.S.S. is their ONLY option- after detention hall.

Finally, we should have emphasized that the word “can” does not mean “shall” and that eliminating paddling is only a goal- not a mandate. If we had that blog to redo, there would be one possible use of the paddle at the secondary level-as an option to prevent the out of school suspension of students. As much as we have reservations about the paddle in secondary schools, we hate worse the idea of students missing school altogether. In this case, the parent(s) would be informed beforehand and all other protocols followed such as witnesses, privacy, same gender administrator, etc. The prior notification is a must since the student is already a candidate for out of school suspension and at this point, the parents NEED to be involved.

COMING NEXT: FROM MICHELLE-

WHAT TO DO AFTER PADDLING A CHILD

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