From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Friday, November 15, 2013

There Are Some People Who Should Never Work With Children

I read a story yesterday of a teacher in Houston, who when a child didn't have his homework, felt the best way to communicate that to his parents was to write a note on the child's forehead with a sharpie marker.  

I don't know how anyone else feels about that, but it made me mad, and I thought to myself how lucky that teacher is that I am not the parent of a child who experienced that in his classroom.  How could a teacher receive the training and education to become a teacher, and with the knowledge I know that training brings, deliberately humiliate a child, in front of the entire class? It is my understanding that the mark was made at the beginning of the day, and the child had to endure the day with the large mark on their forehead at lunch, at recess, and in the classroom itself.  Several times during the day the child cried, and other students tried to console the child. 

You know, it doesn't take that much to get a real estate license in Texas, so perhaps a career in real-estate is an option, since this individual doesn't know better than his behavior, and is so desperate to inspire his class to do their homework, that he resorts to this tactic.  Or even less desirable, what if he does understand the affect of this action, and children who don't do homework just annoy him enough that he can't resist sending a message to his class and the child that, skip your homework if you dare, but you will pay a price.

When I was in Germany last November my sweet Gabby told me something that troubled me, as we were talking about my going to visit  her school the next day.  She said that she was so glad I was going because maybe I could tell her teacher that I really did have banana trees at my house in Texas, and they really did grow bananas.  When I asked her what she was talking about, she said" when I raised my hand when we were talking about trees in my science class, and told my teacher that you had banana trees in your yard in Texas she said I was lying."  I tried suggesting to her, "now she didn't say it that way did she, she just said she didn't think you were right on that, right?"  Gabby was adamant, "no Nana, she said I was lying and to stop or she would call my mother, all of my class laughed at me, and teased me for a long time after that about it."

I must confess when, a few scenarios of remarks I could make to the teacher flashed across my mind.  Loving words as I do, and valuing communication, I reflect a trait my father has always had.  My mother would spank us when we misbehaved, not my dad, he, "talked to us."  I would rather have been beat half to death, than to have my father in his gentle and ever respectful way, point out what I had done, why the behavior had disappointed him so, and how knowing and loving me as he did, it was just difficult for him to even grasp that I had done it, as he would have "never expected it from me...."  He would go on to explain that while sometimes the rules prevented one from making "bad choices," one's character should really always be the governing factor in "making choices." He could go on for quite a while on the other possibilities and what the probabilities of those choices would have been.  Then he would begin assuring he and I both that this was just some fluke, that he knew I was better than that.  After all he had raised me to be better than that, and I was the apple of his eye, his greatest delight in life, and he would tell me of the confidence he had that next time I would not be so unwise, and that he knew I was going to watch so much more closely what I did and said.

He was right, I have always loved and admired my father deeply, and his life before me never reflected anything but strength, honor, and success.  He is 85 now, and still the shining example he has always been.  During the Great Depression, making a living so as to have enough to eat, and the other basics of life, had required that his formal education be limited to the eight grade.  His love of reading has always kept him one of the most informed and knowledgeable people I know.  He still is, and as I contemplated the conversations I could have with Gabby's teacher the next day, I knew what his council and expectations would be.  In his practical, and respectful way he would suggest that ensuring that the teacher had a humiliating experience of her own, would not result in anything positive for Gabby in her classroom.  I sighed, knowing the value of my father's advice, even though he wasn't there, and he wasn't giving it, so I did not approach the teacher.

However when I heard of the Houston teacher's behavior toward a student, I had to acknowledge to myself that some people should never be teachers, and they do harm to children.  Sometimes those individuals harm children intentionally, because they know they can, and they know they can get away with it. Everyone I know has a story to tell concerning their worst teacher, and the remembrance of some experience which has never left them.  

Maya Angelou, who wrote one of my favorite books of all time, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, put in this way:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  

I realized, when I read the story of the Houston teacher, while Gabby is no longer in her classroom, some child is, whose heart is tender, and whom Mrs, Thornburg has the power over in dozens of small ways, to inflict injury without ever being held accountable.  Perhaps a small dose of her own medicine in a very polite way, might teach her a lesson, which would result in the children who are presently her students, having a better experience.  However, if as a teacher of many years experience, who doesn't have any more sensitivity than she did that day with Gabby, it is highly unlikely. 

 So Mrs. Thornburg, you really didn't know what you were talking about at all.  I live in Texas, and there are banana trees in my front yard, and they grow delicious bananas.  It was unnecessary to call Gabby a liar in front of the class, even though you mistakenly thought she was in error.  Perhaps you should extend your reading list to the works of Maya Angelou, she has a great understanding and appreciation of children.

Gabby feels better having an adult publicly acknowledge the wrong doing toward her, and we have talked with her telling her she can make this a good thing in her life.  We told her she can use this experience to teach herself to always be careful with words, and make sure that she doesn't find herself creating in another person, a hurtful memory which will last a lifetime.  So if you know Mrs. Thornburg, teaching in the DoD school, be sure to mention, I mentioned that banana trees do grow and produce bananas in Texas.