14. EDITORIAL:SCHOOL STUPIDITY & WHAT TO DO AFTER PADDLING A STUDENT

Dear readers, the following editorial is a fair criticism of administrative bungling that resulted in an unnecessary paddling of a student in Marion County, Tennessee. Please understand that we at TWP give the benefit of a doubt to educators in most cases. However, we also believe that, in the legal climate that educators work in, there is no excuse for failing to recognize when a parent says “NO” on an opt-out form. To do otherwise is, in our view, professional incompetence. That is not the same as a story we alluded to a few blogs back when a parent wrote a request to be informed prior to any use of paddling on a consent form but did not tell the principal or anyone else. There is a difference!

EDITORIAL

In a story covered by corpun.com, a special education student was supposedly bruised in a paddling by his 5th grade teacher. But that is only the beginning of the story. The possible severity of the paddling would have raised our eyebrows at TWP – but some other problems in this story caused Wendy, Jenny, Michelle and me to “Hit the roof” after reading it.

It seems that the parents of the child had requested in writing to the principal of Richard City Elementary School that their son not be paddled. But the principal neglected to tell the teachers about the request and/or lost the note altogether. Dear readers, this made all of us want to scream to that principal, “Get your head out of your #*%#@!” We at TWP always try to give at least the benefit of a doubt to educators who are underpaid, under appreciated, and over stressed but this was too much.

An important principle that we believe is crucial is that the parent must be the final authority as to how their children are to be disciplined. Simply put, “NO”means “NO” and the principal’s neglect in informing the teacher(s) of that opt-out has made a lawsuit against the county whose school the child attended very likely. In addition, this entire incident makes it harder to defend the use of paddling in school because the opt-out option was not honored. Finally, parents of that community- who may support the principle of legal c.p. in school with the condition of an opt-out policy- may have second thoughts about the entire idea since the administrators seem so clueless.

This is the lynchpin of corporal punishment policy: There must be an accurate system of accounting of students on the “DO NOT PADDLE” list and it must be double checked-no excuses. From our perspective, we do not believe the teacher should be held legally liable because she was not “in the loop” of principal-teacher communication. But the county will be held liable because the principal failed to see to it that the teacher was informed or worse- lost the signed form! As such he should lose his job because this was not a miscommunication but rather professional neglect of administrative responsibility.

“WHAT TO DO AFTER PADDLING A STUDENT”

BY

MICHELLE

Hello readers: I just felt that the story on my first “paddling” needed some more detail as to how I treated Ricky afterwards and how he responded to me. From the comments that TWP received on the story, one would have thought Ricky was “scarred for life” while other comments referred to the paddling as “light”- both sides are off the mark as to what really happened. The truth is: Ricky was just fine afterwards-although a little “sore” and very sorry for what he had done. In fact, he later told me that the worst part of the paddling was his fear that I didn’t “like” him any more! It seems that Ricky (and every other boy in my classroom) had a crush on me which is not an unusual occurance for teachers in general. As teachers though, we have to keep our professional “distance” while having empathy for all of our students. Tall order, huh?

IMMEDIATELY AFTER:

DO allow the student to cry if they do so. Ricky did for a moment but recovered quickly on route back to the room. It was actually harder for ME as I walked back to the room!

DO tell them “Paddling is over!” or words to that effect. When the paddling stops, the punishment stops-remember that!

DO express empathy for the student-This can be the hardest to do because both parties are upset and emotional. As the adult, you must keep your emotions in check and at the same time allow the student to release his. Just a simple “I know that hurt and I hate this as much as you do!” will go a long way towards settling down an upset student. I nearly choked up at this point.

DO NOT show anger towards student. The paddling is over and so is the punishment.

DO NOT wave paddle around in a threatening manner. Rather, tuck it under one arm immediately after the last swat. I almost dropped my paddle after pulling my hand through the wrist strap- so be careful!

DO NOT make threats of more or harder swats “the next time.” Keep your initial focus on the present-not the future.

BEFORE RETURNING TO CLASSROOM

DO ask if child is ready to go back to class. If not, wait WITH him outside the room until he is fully recomposed.

DO pat them on the shoulder if you think it will reassure them. Both times that I paddled a student, I also patted them. I discovered that a simple pat can reassure the student that you are no longer angry with them.

DO let them hug you if they initiate it-but be sure your witness is present if this happens. I was shocked at first when Ricky did this and nearly “lost it” myself. VERY IMPORTANT: Allow the child to reach out to hug IF HE/SHE CHOOSES TO DO SO- never initiate this! This applies if the witness is present or not.

DO NOT let your emotions overcome you. All of us at TWP really do hate this part of our job as teachers and paddling ruins our day as well as the child’s. I am probably the worst when it comes to this- I shed tears of my own both times that I had to use the paddle but managed to pull myself together before going back to the room. (Thanks, Renee for sending both students back to the room ahead of me)

DO NOT give a lecture at this time- wait until later in the day. I found out that a little time between the punishment and a “chat” let the air clear and as a result, both students were easier for me to reconnect with.

AFTER RETURNING TO CLASSROOM

DO return back to where you left off and continue your lesson plan as you originally intended. No need to talk about what just transpired- the other students already know what happened anyway.

DO NOT allow any teasing or comments from other students. Be stern and business-like. There is no need for a “paddle” talk- the class should already know the rules and their consequences.

LATER IN THE DAY

DO sit down with child (during a recess break, for example) to reassure them that they need not fear you. This was when Ricky confided to me about his “crush.” If only you could have seen his face light up- when I told him that I really cared about him and was not angry with him. I just told him how disappointed I was in his behavior and that I knew he could do “better.”

DO NOT let the student engage in physical activity for the rest of the day. This is not additional punishment but rather a precautionary step. A paddle swatted bottom is more easily bruised from tumbles and falls on the playground. So, a missed recess is a good idea and gives an opportunity for a teacher-student “chat” that will restore the student’s psyche. Just be sure that you always leave the classroom door open when you have your “chat.”

I hope that these points cleared up any misconceptions that you, our readers might have. I did not have any more trouble from Ricky-or anyone else- the rest of the year. While Ricky and the other student I paddled the next year did NOT become “model” students, their behavior was better after the paddlings they received. Last I heard, Ricky was showing some promise as a middle school student and football player.

Speaking for myself, I dread the prospect of having to use the paddle in this new school year. So far, so good- but a couple of my students are on thin ice and have been warned. If anything happens and the other contributors let me, I will keep you readers updateded.

COMING NEXT: EDITORIALS and FAQ’s

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