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Teacher Is Shaming Students
Q: My son is in first grade and I disagree with his teacher's behavior. Some kids don't put their names on the papers they hand in. The teacher lets the class look at these papers and then rips them up, telling the kids that they need to be more responsible. Also, some kids don't always put their backpacks in their proper place. When belongings aren't put back, she throws them away and the children have to get them out of the garbage pail.
I teach my child to respect and listen. What is his teacher teaching him? I'm not sure if I'm being overly protective, but my son has come home from school in tears. He's an excellent student who has never gotten in trouble, but it affects him when these things happen to his classmates. Is this teacher's behavior inappropriate?
A: You are not being overly protective of your son. What is your son learning from a first-grade teacher who rips up kids' unsigned papers in front of the class and tosses their wrongly-placed backpacks in the trash? He is learning how to humiliate people under the guise of teaching them a lesson. He is learning to be afraid of teachers and adults in powerful positions because they can do terrible things to him whenever they want. He is learning to associate going to school with being shamed and being scared of what will happen to him if he does something wrong in the eyes of a teacher.
This insensitive teacher's shaming of her students needs to be stopped. I suggest that you contact several other parents of kids in your son's class and arrange a time to get together to talk about this teacher's harmful behavior. Draft a group position statement on her acts of humiliation and ask to meet with her in a cover letter. If you cannot compel her to stop punishing the kids in this manner, take your grievances as a group to the school's principal. There is strength in numbers. Keep moving up the line of power in your school system if you do not receive satisfaction. Regardless of this teacher's possible attributes as an educator, her acts of humiliating her students in the manner you described render her unfit to teach kids. I am pleased that you are going to take appropriate action. Even though your son hasn't been directly punished by this teacher, you've seen how her insensitive actions have damaged your son emotionally.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.