Sunday, August 16, 2015

Student Discipline

Just as teachers had rules in the 19th century, so did students.  What was inappropriate in the 1800’s is mostly considered inappropriate today.  What differs is the punishment method used to correct the misdeed.  Schools have banned lashing/swatting/spanking.  I used to get my hands slapped with a ruler and I ducked once when the principal tried to slap me in 5th grade due to being mouthy, though what I said that was inappropriate I have no recollection of.  We didn’t have a cafeteria so we had to eat lunch in our classroom and milk monitors would be selected to bring in the pre-ordered milk cartons for the class.  I was monitor of the day and talking while the principal was counting out milk cartons.  As she went to slap me I ducked and she hit the girl standing next to me who let out a wail like the world was ending.  The best part of the story is that the girl was a real brat whose mom was very active in the school so the girl typically got away with murder.  The principal was so upset that she immediately hugged the child and took her to the office to get her ice.  I escaped back to class with our milk and for some reason, never got called back to the office to be disciplined.  I actually became a class hero when the story got around. 
Back in 1872, the following was considered inappropriate student behavior, just as it is now:
                Fighting/Quarreling/Wrestling
                Lying/Telling Tales
                Swearing/Name Calling
                Gambling/Betting
                Drinking Liquor
                Wetting each other when washing (yep, water fights in the bathroom are still a big deal!)
                Mischief Making (spitting, vandalizing, littering, being noisy)
                Tree climbing over 3 feet (don’t think we have a height limit – tree climbing totally prohibited)
                Leaving campus
What differs is that in our country, boys and girls are now permitted to play together which was an offense in 1872.  I’m not sure why making swings and swinging on them was prohibited but I suspect it was more of a liability issue for the school than bad behavior on the part of the student.  Maybe it was tied in with not climbing trees.  Reminds me that some districts today have banned Dodge Ball and Red Rover due to student injuries. 
Wearing long nails was also a no-no but could be considered a distraction or weapon today so that still may be applicable.  Back in the day coming to school with dirty face and hands would be considered a punishment for the student but if it was often, today it probably would warrant a call to Child Protective Services. 
In 1872, students could be disciplined for misbehaving on the road.  Until recently, my school district couldn’t discipline a child for an infraction committed off campus – such as at the bus stop.  That’s recently changed, however, with the advent of bullying via social media.  A student may have texted/posted something inappropriate outside of school but since it’s viewable at school, school personnel can now address it.
What's most interesting is that kids have made poor choices for a very long time.  I didn't get into much trouble in school because I knew I would disappoint my mom and I that would have been a horrible punishment for me.  My mom told a story of stealing a box of crayons when she was in first grade.  She knew it was wrong but wanted to make a picture for her mother so she snuck them out of the classroom one Friday afternoon.  As soon as she got outside the guilt overcame her and she vomited.  The teacher came to assist her and my mom confessed.  After cleaning her up the school sent her home with three packs of crayons, extras for her two younger siblings.  Her teacher told her if she ever needed anything to just ask next time.  That nameless teacher made a tremendous difference by teaching a valuable life lesson in a kind way.  Teachers do the same every day every year often without seeing the positive results.  Developing good people is more important, to me, than any other curricula that a school tries to instill.  As teachers in my school district return to work tomorrow for a few days of planning and training before students arrive the following week, I hope the realize the impact they have on their students.  It's an awesome responsibility not only to the individual student, but to the future!

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