Sunday, December 16, 2007

Punish in public?

In one of my first education classes I took, my teacher shared this idea with us: "Praise in public, punish in private". I've always thought this is the way it should be, and as a teacher, I've really tried to follow that rule. I can't say I'm always successful, as it's difficult to not lose it occasionally; however, the other day, I actually broke this rule intentionally...and the more I think about it, the more I realize it may not have been the best choice.

Last week we had women from China who are studying to be teachers visit out school, and I had a group in one of my classes. During the lesson, one woman raised her hand and held out a sheet of paper. I walked over, and she showed me the paper and asked if it was a student's essay. I skimmed it over and realized it was a note.

I told her that, but she didn't quite understand and asked me if it was in French. This made me laugh because she was pointing at words like "ur" and "bc," then she points to "bitch." I just say that yes, it's a French essay and take it from her. I read a little further and notice that I'm the one who's a bitch because I won't let a student paint her nails in class or talk to her friend during speeches.

The note made me slightly annoyed, and I wanted to let the girls know that first off, the note was unacceptable, and second off, whispering in class is unacceptable. So, during lunch I told the story to the rest of my department and asked for their advice. One of the older teachers told me to call the girls out on it in class...do it in a somewhat joking way, but embarrass them so they won't do it again. I left lunch thinking this was a good idea.

So, the next day during the last two minutes of class, I sit down on one of the desks and tell my kids, "Guys, I have a really funny story for you..." Then I tell them about the Chinese teachers and the note, the entire time looking at the two young girls who wrote it. I end the story by saying, "First off, I don't know that it's bitchy to ask you to show some respect to your peers and not paint your nails or talk during speeches, and second off, if you're going to think that, don't make the dumb move of writing it down and leaving it on the floor for me to find."

By this time, the rest of the class was up in arms or laughing at the two girls. One of the girls was bright red, and the other looked as if she was about to cry. These girls don't fit the social norm, and I think I may've made it worse for them...so, now I've got a case of the guilty conscience, and I'm wondering if I did the right thing.

9 comments:

Ed_Thoughts said...

I too have felt the guilt from the public punishment. What I did was find some way to praise the individual students for working hard in class the next day, but do so as part of a larger list o' individual compliments. That allowed me to praise them, and integrate them into the larger group again.

As always, I enjoy your posts.

Kim B. said...

I don't think you should feel guilty. Had you done nothing about it, it would have eaten away at you because you let it go if you're anything like me. Students don't realize how their words can hurt and many times they don't know what is acceptable behavior. I would have been stunned that they even wanted to paint nails. I don't know what kids are thinking sometimes.

Vivacia said...

I think it's better for them to learn now than later on in the future when people might not be so nice about it. You may feel that it wasn't necessarily the best thing to do, but notes like that could make a lot of enemies out of their future peers if they continue the trend of writing bad things about people and being so careless.

Meg said...

My best teacher, my mom, taught me something I try to remember in situations like this: actions come with consequences. I don't think you should have a moment of guilt.

the anonymous teacher said...

The guilt has lessened. Thanks for the support. The other kids are back to normal, and the girls have been much more respectful lately. One even came in an apologized, saying she took her bad day out on me. I told her that I understood, and we're good now.

liebelo said...

This is a tricky one. Sometimes our best intentions don't always come forth the way we intended, but I agree with the posting below about "actions come with consequences". Don't feel guilty (I have to tell myself this often.)

Thanks for the good reading!

Lee Higginbotham said...

I love this blog! Keep up the good work.

Check this out:

http://theinfluentialteacher.com

pachoob said...

sometimes being called out in front of everyone is the only way to learn a lesson. the times it happened to me in school, i learned my lesson really quickly and didn't ever make that mistake again. but don't abuse it; if i feel like i've made a mistake and really hurt a student's feelings, i'll usually keep them a couple seconds after class and talk with them about it.

mewmewmew said...

I too have felt the guilt from the public punishment. What I did was find some way to praise the individual students for working hard in class the next day, but do so as part of a larger list o' individual compliments. That allowed me to praise them, and integrate them into the larger group again.


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