Oct. 10th, 2010

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 At work this week, one of the youth leaders, a product of a Catholic school, commented that bullies were not tolerated when he was growing up.  If a nun teacher heard one of her students be mean to another, then not only would the bully get a religious tongue-lashing about kindness to your neighbors, but a ruler across the palm as well.

If there were physical incidents, the bullies got paddled in the office.  Any parent who disagreed with this policy could always pull their kid out, but no parent ever did.  In fact, in his circle, a kid punished for being a bully in school got it twice as hard at home.

I found myself wondering whether slapping with a ruler or paddling actually stopped bullying, or only made it better hidden, in the bathrooms, on the way home, and so on.  Did the bullies become more inured to violence because they, themselves, were hit?  I wondered also if my youth leader, a handsome, tough, Irish manly man, would ever have had trouble with bullies.  He'd've been the type to have wiped the floor with the bodies of anyone who tried.  Maybe he didn't see anyone bullied because, like in his role as youth leader at my workplace now, no one would ever dare to bully  in HIS presence, even as a kid.

We got a memo at work this week, forwarded from my boss, forwarded from her supervisors, saying that the first week in October was "count week," in which the average attendance at the schools was tallied, for the purposes of government funding formula.  We were to attempt not to suspend anyone this week for behavior infractions.  This message made me wonder whether teacher silences are the unintended consequence of conflicting supervisor expectations.  With No Child Left Behind, schools are "graded" for the newspapers, with not only scores, but attendance as one of the ways to earn an "excellent" rating.  Suspend too many of your problem children, and your school gets a bad score, published in the newspaper, and loses governmental  funding to boot.  That's a powerful incentive to ignore a problem like bullying and hope it isn't too bad, huh?

The missive did not change the way I taught or disciplined this week.  My classes ran along as usual, and while I did have redirects (I do work at a treatment center, after all,) I had no major incidents that would have gone before the principal to test that memo's message.


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