Let it be done in love

When I was 8 years old, I witnessed my teacher making another student cry. I can’t remember his offense, but I do remember that she made him stand in front of the classroom and hold out a dictionary until he broke down crying. This wasn’t an isolated incident. It was part of my teacher’s classroom management.

Quiet, obedient and nervous about the world, I was never the child who got into trouble. I was still traumatized watching the teacher victimize other children.

My parents were deeply religious people and chose to send me to a catholic school because they wanted me to learn my catechism. The fact that they chose this school for me did not negate the damage. Though I’ve always performed well academically, I’ve had a persistent fear of people and a general anxiety that has plagued me throughout my life. Watching other children humiliated did not serve me well.

I’m told by younger friends who also attended catholic school that they can’t imagine their teachers acting like this and that the experience is much more positive now. But I bring this up because of the video out of Success Academies showing a teacher berating her student for not knowing a math answer.

I know I’m seen as a little bit obsessive on the charter issue but I have some sense of what those children in No Excuses classrooms are experiencing. The fact thacf15f2e7f34ec74f5e7d81477105ffdft parents are choosing to subject their children to this does not erase the damage that these children are experiencing.

Children do not need to be abused to learn. Black and brown children deserve to be in education environments where they are treated like children and not prisoners. These No Excuse charter schools have proliferated across the country, and we’ve allowed it. We are allowing the abuse of children in the name of test scores. It’s a shame on us all.

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One thought on “Let it be done in love

  1. In Tito Jackson’s recent city council hearing, which included testimony about the disciplinary policy in charter schools in Boston, one of the witnesses, a woman who had both taught and worked in administration of schools, pointed out two approaches taken to address code of conduct violations– compliance, where escalating consequences are attached to behavioral violations (whatever they may be), and educational, where behavioral violations trigger an intervention, a conversation about the rule, a conversation about what was going on with the student, and a consequence designed to inform not punish. (I’m taking some liberty with that description but I hope you get the idea) I don’t think we understood behaviour learning in the 60s when I was a kid, the way we do now.

    I went to Catholic school 1st through 6th. Some of the nuns were good teachers whether it was a formal subject material or a correcting a behavioral issue. Although we were made to stand in the corner as a punishment, we were never treated without compassion. Some of the nuns were compliance-oriented which can be harder on kids and confusing. Kids focus on the emotion of it, being corrected and feeling bad about themselves. This can undermine the trust relationship with the teacher and the behavioral learning we what from the kids.

    Some kids don’t have impulse control. Some adults don’t either.

    Some Charters seem to adopt this compliance model for code of conduct. I would have thought we’d be beyond that as a best practice.

    Here’s the thing, we have no authority to compel charter schools to change their policy. Neither the school committee, the school board not the mayor has any authority whatsoever.

    Charters are regulated by the state and I wouldn’t even know who to petition in Baker’s administration to hold a hearing on the topic. At the same time, local taxpayers fund these schools.

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