SPARE THE ROD…

Social media post that have showcased our crazy students either attacking teachers or being attacked by teachers and SRO’s seem to be multiplying. What happened to the normal fistfights between students of my generation? All of these posts causes myriads of questions to form in my head. The former teacher in my head screams “WTF?” Then the eternal optimist in my head asks, “Could it just be that things haven’t changed that much? It’s just everyone has access to IPhones and Social Media and therefore we just see it more than we did.” Finally the conspiracist in my head wonders, “Was it a manufactured post with really good actors?” Fox Mulder would say, “The truth is out there somewhere.” At least he is not in my head. There is not enough room for so many voices and I am worried that if I look hard enough I actually might find truth and it might not be what I would wish for.

Most of such posts are accompanied by calls to arm teachers or remove SROs. I am not for either of those options. I see a scenario where my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Crow, might have shot Little Donnie had she been armed and there are a long line of “little Johnnies” who might have been put out of my misery be me. A majority of post underline the old adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I began my teaching career when corporal punishment was still the primary form of punishment and according to many posters it still should be. As a former teacher, I am just not sure. While I was called upon to “pound that butt” on occasion, as time marched on I found myself uncomfortable physically disciplining a child who was not mine. Okay, I was uncomfortable disciplining my child and thankfully she gave me few reasons.

When I moved to Mauldin to begin my high school teaching career, my room was located across from our principal’s office. Occasionally, Marilyn Koon would enlist my right arm to administer licks to unruly male students. An avid sailor, Marilyn had a model sailing ship decorating the front of her desk and would require the offending student to bend over and place his hands on either side of the ship. As I went into my back swing she would grab their hands insuring that I had a stationary target…most of the time. There was one young man who attempted to crawl across her desk and into her lap…on my back swing.

Once I found myself in the position of thinking I might should have been on the receiving end of licks rather than administering them. In late April or early May, seniors are most often gripped by a disease characterized by a paralysis of the mind. This causes lethargy in the senior group that can only be combated by certain mindless activities such as the “Senior Prank,” “Senior Cut Day,” senior lunches, graduation parties and the like. It is called “Senioritis.” Bucky Trotter (Class of 1976) and many others from this particular group succumbed to the disease quite early and made many of us thankful that seniors finish up earlier than the rest of their classmates. Late in the afternoon one of the last days I heard the rattle of tiny wheels rolling up the hallway. As I glanced up I saw Cathy Fortune, now Slenski, go rolling past my door (sitting in a steno chair). She grinned and waved as she rolled by. As I stepped out, I noticed Bucky down at the other end of the hall with a big grin on his face. I grabbed the chair and with a hard push, returned it along with Cathy, to Bucky before stepping back inside of my room. Moments later, our principal’s secretary Sybil Babb popped her head into my room and alerted me that, “Ms. Koon needs you in her office.” As I entered the outer office I saw Cathy Fortune seated next to Sybil’s desk. She was not smiling anymore which was unusual. Oh my, this did not bode well. In Ms. Koon’s office sat Bucky. “Mr. Miller, please administer three licks to Mr. Trotter.” “What did you do Buck?” “Me ‘n Cathy were in the hallway, without permission, frolickin’.” Bucky was taking an SAT course and had a tendency to focus on certain vocabulary words and use them in interesting and sometimes unusual ways. I asked nothing else because I knew how they were “frolickin’” having just participated in the activity. I really felt bad and had I been a better man would have turned the paddle over to Bucky when I completed my “disciplinary actions.”

It has been four years since I have darkened doors of a high school class. My teaching voice wonders, “I can’t believe that classroom discipline has eroded to the level that I have seen in such a short of a period of time.” As soon as that thought is formed another voice in my head chirps, “But what about the erosion of societal values?” Finally the realist in my head voices the question, “Aren’t you glad you have finished your career instead of just beginning it?” Slowly my head nods in the affirmative as a fourth voice expresses its sorrow.

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