Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thoughts on Corporal Punishment

Last summer, I thought corporal punishment was generally a bad idea. I really hadn’t ever seen it used, so my feelings towards corporal punishment were somewhat passive. I just didn’t think a child should be hit for any reason.

The first time I saw a student being paddled by the principal, I felt overwhelmed with shame and guilt, like I was the one being paddled. I couldn’t watch, I was so embarrassed for the student, a female who was only 3 years younger than me. The girl who was being paddled tried to grab the paddle away from my principal, shouting curse words at him. This only made my principal madder at her, and so he continued paddling her for longer than I think he had originally intended. I don’t even know why the principal started paddling her. When he left, the girl came to my class and was disruptive the entire period because she was so angry at the principal. It made my job that much more difficult.

Every time I sent a student to the office and the principal used corporal punishment, the student was back in my classroom two minutes later. Students didn’t cool off in the office, they came back furious with me for getting them paddled. No student ever acted better after returning from the office.

Let’s face it, corporal punishment is for the lazy. It’s quick, it’s easy, it doesn’t involve any extra paperwork and the parents don’t have to be contacted about the behavior. My administration didn’t want to put in the extra effort it took to set up in school suspension or detention, and they were only allowed to suspend a limited amount of students at a time. There were no guidelines my principal seemed to follow in using corporal punishment. I have no idea how he decided if a student got paddled and how many times a student was paddled for a certain offense. One day, a student in my third period class was paddled once for being tardy to my class, and then one of my students in seventh period was paddled once for skipping class three days in a row. This same principal preached to the teachers about being fair and consistent with all of the students.

Finishing the School Year

Last summer, Joel Harris and Joe Sweeny acted out a scenario for the then first year teachers in which a teacher told his students their end of the year grades just before school finished. In the skit, a male student that had failed almost became violent toward the teacher and caused a huge disruption. I am so grateful they did this skit for us because it made me think about all kinds of situations that would put me in a dangerous or uncomfortable position with the students.
I recently turned in my end of the year grades to the office and made sure that I didn't tell any of the students their grades, keeping in mind the skit from last summer. However, on the second to last day of school, my administration called down every senior I taught that had failed for the year to tell them that they would not be graduating because of their grade in geometry. Then, the administration told each student to go ask me really nicely if I would change their grade so they could graduate. So, in the middle of the day, these seniors come crying to my room, asking me to change their grades. Now, only one of these students made above a 65, the others had between a 58 and a 61 for the end of the year. And, since I can't change grades from the previous nine weeks, if I had wanted to get them to pass for the school year, I would have had to change their fourth nine weeks grades to more than 100.
After these students left my room, they called their mothers and stormed over to central office. The superintendent told them that I could change their grades if I wanted to, and that it was completely up to me if I wanted to. Thanks. So the mothers came back to the school to yell and threaten me. I had a police escort as I walked down the hallway, and another police officer had to drive me off campus. I was assured that if the mothers came back to school on Friday, they would be arrested.
I came to school on Friday, which was a teacher work day, and the mothers were back at school at 7:30 in the morning. On top of that, my access to my grades online was blocked for all my high school students. So I left. I came back to school on Tuesday to drop off my grade book (after I made a copy), and snuck out again after I heard a mother yelling about me in the office. I still haven't cleared with the school, but I've given them everything they need from my lost textbook list to my keys. I hope I am done with this school for good.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

School Violence

I honestly try to be positive every time I write a blog about my school, but I can't! I've probably had my worst week ever, which is saying a lot because I've had some rough weeks.
On Monday in 7th period, an 11th grade boy, more specifically a football player on crack and steroids, beat up an 11th grade girl in my classroom. I called for security to escort the boy out BEFORE anything had happened, but none of the security officers were asked to come to my room, and the girl ended up losing two teeth in the fight. The second the fight started, I ran across the hall to ask a male teacher for help, since I had given up on the office. The 11th grade boy wasn't even supposed to be in school-- he had shot at another one of my student's houses last week and he was on parole. All of this could have been prevented. Then, after the fact, the school didn't even call the police. A security officer at the school informed the police, and he is currently in jail.
On Tuesday in my 3rd period class, I had my door cracked open and a 10th grade boy burst in threatening one my 11th grade female students, shoving desks out the way trying to get to her. This time, my students were ready and they quickly acted to help get him out of the room while I called for security. Twice. And sent a referral to the office. Again, security was not notified and the principal and asst. principal were not informed. Nothing happened until I had another teacher watch my class so I could storm into the office and demand that the boy be sent home. I found out that another teacher had informed the office during 1st period that the male student was threatening the female student. This also could have been prevented if the office had acted the first time they were told about the threats.
Also on Monday, though not in my class, another girl was hit in the hallway by a boy, her two-month-old baby's father. He has yet to face any disciplinary action.
I was of course at central office by 7:00 on Wednesday concerning these three incidents. My superintendent assured me that she would talk with the principal and the asst. principal at 8:00, which she did, but it didn't seem to accomplish anything. Except that now my asst. principal is mad at me for talking to the superintendent. The asst. principal keeps telling me that I'm not allowed to call for a security officer, that only someone from the office can ask a security officer to go to a classroom. She told me that I don't need a security officer because I'm supposed to break up fights. That it's my responsibility to physically intervene to stop a fight. How am I supposed to stop a fight involving a football player on drugs? When I asked my asst. principal this, she told me that I needed to "get tough." I thought it was made very clear to us that a female teacher is not expected to physically attempt to break up fights. Especially the one I had in my class. None of my male students even tried to break up the fight.