_ “Do you want a spanking?” Jacque Shuford, my mother.
Um, no… One of the issues I had to deal with at Pickering Elementary was no child could be sent to the office unless the teacher had first handled the issue by following the prescribed course of disciplinary action which included 1) a warning, 2) a call home, 3) a parent meeting, and 4) paddling by the teacher. Steps 1-3 were really easy for me after a few rounds, but when the child hit the fourth level I was done and they knew it. I would go back through the first three steps again trying to avoid the dreaded paddle. I did not want to paddle the kids. My heart was hurting.
The day finally came when I had called home for the same child for the fifth time. The dad said, “You just need to paddle him.” I cried all the way to the office. The assistant principal said, “Either learn to follow procedures or be miserable.” I signed the paddle out. I walked back to my room. I asked a teacher to be my witness and I called the darling into the hallway. He saw I had been crying. He started laughing. He bent over and I gave him the first of three licks. He turned around and said, “Is that all ya got?”
Now I have red hair and I know there are those who equate my temper with my hair. My temper is a bit embarrassing at times and I really have learned to control it. However that day I simply gritted my teeth together and told him, “Bend over.” I popped him pretty hard and I was then not the only one crying. He looked at me and with absolutely no kindness in my heart I said, “Oh, you have one more coming.”
He went back into the class with tears flowing. I opened the door, slammed the paddle on the door and told the whole bugged-eyed class, “This is a new day. I am in charge and you will be do your best every day whether you like it or not, because I don’t plan on needing this again. Understand?” I marched back to the office and returned the paddle. I told the assistant principal I would not need it again. He said, “I know.”
There was a definite change in my class. I have never paddled another student nor do I wish to ever paddle a student again. There are those who think the paddling is what made the difference. The paddling had nothing to do with it. What changed was the way I saw my role. I became consistent and learned how to have a firm, but kind tone. I know how to use “the look”. I also learned about building a relationship.
Thirty minutes after that paddling I had calmed down, but the child was still crying a little bit. I called him to my desk and told him, “You know my mom used to tell me disciplining me hurt her more than me. I did not believe it, but I do now. I know that hurt, but you know what hurts more? My heart, because I love you so very much and I think you are just about the coolest kid I know. I think you can do great things and when you misbehave I see all of those great things slipping away. The other thing is you are hurting other people’s chances too. So how about we forgive each other today and I keep working you hard and you keep trying to behave. When you need a little break let me know. How would that be?”
He gave me the biggest hug and from then on I had little notes and pictures from him several times a week. We would go to the cafeteria and he would put his hand in mine and smile at me so sweetly. He still had his moments, but a little chat in the hall fixed the problem.
Effective teachers love kids. Being firm, being consistent, and disciplining is critical, but reinstating and forgiving is even more important. I pray for grace every morning to see past all of their issues and offer them a clean slate. I try to not remember the things a child may have done and I don’t bring it back up at a later date. Instead I have found if you speak what you want over a child, you usually find the child begins to believe it.
At the end of the year he brought me a homemade cross-stitched wall hanger that said, “World’s Best Teacher”. I told him to thank his mom for me and he replied with a sweet smile, “I learned to cross-stitch so I could make if for you.” I still have it in my office at home. You know, he spoke something over me and I have tried very hard to live up to that sign. I am thankful he saw past my temper and believed in me again.
I am a teacher, which in a single word, sums up my passions and my belief in the future.