When I was in kindergarten, we were practicing our coloring working very hard to stay inside the lines. I noticed that the normal techniques were a little to stifling for me and began looking for ways to jazz up the process. I quickly noticed that by coloring up and down in straight lines and moving the paper under the crayon I was able to express my deepest emotions more fully.
I proudly went to town coloring away and talking to my friends about the pressure of remembering where your lunch money is all the way until snack time. I think a bird may have even landed on my shoulder and started singing a special song just for me.
Suddenly, WHACK. My evil kindergarten teacher smacked my knuckles with a ruler. This was not Catholic school in the 1950s. This was public school in 1981.
My bird flew away, I lost my lunch money, I cried, and my career in art was ruined.
My kids start preschool in a couple weeks. Geetle will be going to private school and Pookie will be going to public which reminded me of this bizarre moment in my education. Now, as a parent, I have to give a little thought to what forms of discipline are acceptable to me.
Throughout my years of schooling, I was disciplined several different ways. I always seemed to find a way to bring out creativity in the teachers.
- Hitting is not okay. I do not hit my kids. I will not hit the teachers. I expect them to not hit me or my children. Hitting includes spanking, rulers, paddles, whatever. They should not be allowed to punish my kid by doing something that my kid would be suspended for doing.
- Yelling. I have mixed emotions about this one. Teachers are a lot bigger than students. Yelling is a very intimidating act. Yelling should be limited to moments where getting the kid to stop the behavior immediately is necessary. Yelling at a kid to put down the baseball bat his is hitting Tommy with is okay. Yelling at a kid to put their glue back in their desk is frowned upon.
- Time out. Ah the minutes sitting in the corner or out in the hall counting the number of tiles in the ceiling. A very good punishment for most problems. Most kids just need a couple of minutes away from the stimulis to turn back into little angels.
- Principal’s office. I love this punishment. Walking down the empty hallway to the big boss of the school is normally enough to calm down most kids. Plus it provides a built in time out during the walk and while they are waiting for the principal to see them.
- During school detention. This was very common in my junior high. An entire day in a study hall room carving your name on a desk. I wish I would have had this punishment at least once a week. I never understood why you would take the biggest problem makers and give them a way to get out of class. You would be hard pressed to find a more inappropriate punishment. The problem kids are not stupid and quickly learn that getting out of class is just one random act of meaness away.
- After/before school detention. At least the punishment is in addition to classroom activities. The problem arises when parents are unable to pick up/drop off the kid because of work or do not feel like their child should have to spend more time at school then is mandatory. This can lead to a power struggle between the teacher and the parents that the parents will usually win. But, either way, the side that lost the battle has lost a little bit of their authority position in the kid’s eyes.
- Teacher’s Pet. This involves making the problem student help the teacher teach the class. Make them write the notes on the board as the teacher talks. Make them hand out the homework. Make them read the spelling list. If they are front and center and participating, they are probably going to be learning what is being taught and probably will try to avoid having the punishment happen again.
- Public humiliation. My fourth grade teacher found an interesting way to punish me for not turning in a homework assignment in fourth grade. She walked me into the fifth grade class next door, made me stand in front of the classroom, and explain why I did not finish my homework assignment. The 5th graders looked confused at what was going on but that did not stop them from laughing. This is much more psychologically damaging than the Teacher’s Pet punishment. These are people you do not have everyday contact with and really only see on the play ground. They should not have a reason to think that you are some nut job because the one time they see you in class you are being punished in their presence.
I have actually experienced all of those punishments except the in class detention. The most effective for me involved separating me from the situation by either sending me briefly to the hall or to the principal’s office and making me take front and center in my own class.
As a parent I would protest the physical violence and the public humiliation. I would also fight very hard against full day in school detentions and maybe get it changed to before/after school.
Other than that, teachers have enough trouble getting kids to behave in class. I do not want to make it more difficult by saying that teachers should have no discipline techniques at their disposal. Keep my kid safe, keep them somewhat mentally sound and if that does not work, tell me and I will work on them at home.