Sunday, July 17, 2005

But It's Not My Fault!

Reading TravelerTrish's comment on my post about the swimming pool set my mind to thinking. (No easy task in the summer, mind you.) Parents have got a real problem with discipline and I think it's about to be the downfall of our society. Seriously! I'm not being dramatic here.
In seven years in the classroom, there shouldn't be a dramatic swing like the one I've seen. It's not like I've been teaching all that long, but it gets consistently and noticeably worse every year. I'm not quite sure how to organize this, but the bottom line here is that there have got to be consequences and structure in a child's life. Your home is a microcosm of society for your children. If a child intentionally hits their sibling, there should be a consequence. Just like when that same child is 18 and they get into a fight in public, they could very well be arrested.
Now, I'm not saying beat the kid. I'm saying get 'em where it hurts. And make it age appropriate and creative.
I was overall a pretty good kid, but the Singing Pig was no stranger to the spanking. (Usually because of my smart mouth, which as you can see eventually found an appropriate outlet. Thanks, mom and dad.) Oh, I've had the Dangling By the Elbow Swinging in a Circle Spanking, the On the Thigh Backseat of the Car Spanking, and the Over the Knee Dad's Serious This Time Spanking. Did I deserve it? I'm sure. Am I emotionally scarred or suing my parents? Um, no.
But here's the trick. You have to be crafty with spankings because they just aren't appropriate forever or all the time. When I was in middle school, I probably would have preferred a spanking to the Picking Up Rocks in the Yard public shame punishment or the dreaded Removal of Phone Privileges torture or in high school, the Grounded on the Weekends horror. So creativity and knowing your child is key.
Also, I think common sense. For instance, you don't spank or punish for everything under the sun. I see those parents too, but usually it's only in front of me, the teacher, so that I witness them punishing their children. As though I'm the judge. When you punish for absolutely everything, the punishment loses its value as a punishment. There should be levels of punishment. There is no need to spank all the time for everything. And with some kids, there's probably no need to spank at all. Mind games are important too.
Mind games could be handy in public. For example, my husband's parents had one rule and one rule only when in public: Don't Embarrass Me. If Mike broke that rule, then he wasn't instantly punished, no no....he received the delayed punishment. You know the one - one evil raised eyebrow or a very firm elbow grip? All the communication is in the eyes. There's no need to spank or yell in public. That just brings the parents down to the kids' level. I cannot stand to see parents in the grocery store aisle screaming at and swatting their children who are running around like devils. When they reach that point, it's really too late for the parents. That's when they call up one of these ludicrous Nanny 911 reality TV shows. You want to see the kind of parents I deal with at school? Watch that show. I'm just glad they're being exposed to the public. [Sidenote - the fact that that show even exists makes the point of this post for me.]
So let's bring this around to school and how it affect me, the teacher. Kids come to school having never been properly trained or punished. Somehow they've made it to fourth grade acting this way. (or they have to be re-trained after a 2 month summer vacation and too much time with their parents) These are the kids in class that call out the "funny" comments and expect to be told how cute they are. These are the kids that remove things from their neighbor's desk and then deny that they had anything to do with it, despite the fact that you, the teacher, watched them. These are the kids who don't turn in any work, claiming that you, the teacher, didn't give it to them or that their mom/maid/babysitter threw it away. These are those kids. We'll call them Bratty Brittany and Peter the Punk. And here's the problem:
When I was little (back in my day! we had to walk up hill both ways to school in the snow!), I was deathly afraid of my teacher. Well, not really of my teacher, but of what could happen to me if I was "bad." Most kids my age knew that if you got in trouble at school, you were going to be in a lot worse trouble at home. And I didn't go to school at a school with paddles. It was just good 'ol respect. My teacher had an apple tree on the bulletin board. The apple had our names on them and the good apples stayed up on the tree. One day, my apple fell off the tree and I was a bad apple. I was CRUSHED. Do you know what I had done? I hadn't written my name on my paper. My second grade teacher made me dig through the trashcan where she had wadded up and thrown away all the no name papers. I was crying so hard that the tears blurred my eyes and I couldn't read the names, so the task was even more difficult and I knew she was watching me. I was one miserable bad apple. You know what my mom said? "I bet you don't forget to do that anymore!" And I didn't. Now let's fast-forward to 2005.
Pop Quiz: I'm grading papers. There are 4 papers without names in my stack. There are 22 children in my class. I have written down 18 scores.

Here are my choices:
a) Add handwriting analyst to my job description.
b) Hang the no name papers on the board for kids to claim them.
c) Throw the papers into the garbage can.
d) Call the 4 kids up to my desk and let them find their paper for me.

What would you do? Reason through your choices carefully because this is a test to see if you could keep your job in a yuppie school district. Answers and conclusion will be delivered when a proper number of decisions have been cast. I know you're waiting on the edge of your seat. I feel the excitement.

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