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Thursday, April 11, 2013



In talking to teachers today, I wonder how they are able to control their students.  It seems they are unable to get students attention the way they did when I was in school.  Yelling or “Losing one’s temper” is subject to the teacher being disciplined.  Sending a letter home might bring a visit from an enraged parent more often than it would enlist the discipline assistance from the parent.

I hear stories of students laughing in the face of today’s teachers.  Kids dress inappropriately, and use inappropriate language.  They text during class, smoke during breaks, and drink or do drugs at lunch.  Teachers don’t even have a smoking lounge for themselves anymore.

When I was in school, teachers had the power to make our life miserable and as a result we (usually) behaved.  A letter to your parents would result in massive punishment.  Parents assumed the teacher was never wrong. 

If you wore inappropriate clothes (inappropriate was what they said was inappropriate, “You know very well what’s wrong with that shirt young man!”) you would be sent home.  If you swore you would stay after school.  If you talked back to the teacher you would face suspension.  Any of these punishments today is liable to bring a lawsuit against the teacher, the school district and the town.

Teachers found several ways to discourage talking in class.  Mrs. Brown, the music teacher would start to cry.  Miss Gromlick was a light switch switcher; on off, on off, until you shut up or got a headache. 

The male teachers were the scariest.

Mr. Khoury, the Physiography (rocks) teacher and football coach had a stare that nobody dared challenge.  He would grab the podium with both hands, glare at the entire class for three seconds and then in a stern, clipped, but calm voice, simply say, “Stop talking.” 

You could hear crickets in the winter.

Mr. Dunham was a thrower.  If there was talking while he was working on the blackboard, back to the class he would whirl around and fling a piece of chalk on a rope six inches above the head of the offender.  The chalk would smack against the wall and explode and the room would fall silent…end of problem. 

His chalk accuracy was legendary.

Mr. Frank also spoke no words to get the classes attention.  Mr. Frank a mild mannered man would go red in the face, grab an empty desk from the front row, and lift/slam it to the floor three times.  Quiet ensued.

Mr. Hopkins my English teacher would barely break stride in quelling a problem.  In mid lecture he would calmly and quietly tell a student to leave.

“And so if you are qualifying an action, Mr. Higgins please leave the room, it is an adverb.”

“Yo, where do you want me to go?”  

“I do not care where you go Mr. Higgins, you are interrupting my classroom, please leave.”

There was nowhere a student could go during class hours without getting in big trouble.  Going to the principal’s office was the only choice and that was not good.

“Ah can I stay, I’ll be quiet?”

“Class, should we let Mr. Higgins stay just this once?”

In unison, “Yes Mr. Hopkins.”

“And if a word describes a person or an object it is called an… Mr. Higgins?”

When teachers did not fear lawsuits, when teachers had real punishment options that they could hand out, when teachers had the backing of their supervisors and the parents, they had the respect of their students.  You cannot teach without students respect.

Somehow today’s teachers manage, I have no idea how.


  1. Twenty years ago, I taught in a school where discipline was a joke, but I was the queen of my classroom and therefore did okay. We got a new shop teacher one year - a huge man. He came into my classroom after school one day and went on a rant about the discipline. He said, "We are toothless tigers in a zoo full of animals. We can go around roaring, but the other animals know we have no teeth." It has gone downhill even more in the 20 years since.

  2. I remember the days when the lads were cained at school for mis-behaving. I also remember our maths teacher that had a small cricket bat and he used to smack girls and boys equally on the behind when necessary (Now that I think about it, he was probably a bit of a perv but at the time seemed innocent enough).
    You are not allowed to touch kids here is South Africa anymore - I assume it is very much the same throughout the rest of the world.

  3. I checked my granddaughter's chat's with a friend. They bragged about texting during class. My granddaughter's cell phone went back to the phone store. They even paid me for it.

  4. Wow, isn't that the truth. I don't even like walking in the high schools anymore. They just feel, evil. I had a few teachers like you. Not to mention the vice principle. Yikes

  5. Another home run Big Joe. You darn right we respected our teachers! The options to NOT respecting them were too scary to think about.

    I remember early in one school year I went to "meet the teacher night" with my daughter. I discreetly told her that if "E" didn't behave to just let me know and I'd have a "come to Jesus meeting" with her. The next day she told the other teachers that we were very religious and would get Jesus involved if "E" acted up. ;)


  6. I'm gonna stick my neck out here and say that it isn't only in school now.
    This has come over into everyday society.
    Miscreants can't even be kept in jail because there isn't any room.
    There are no longer any consequences for misdeeds unless they are serious felonies.

  7. i don't know how they come out alive each day, actually. so very sad.

  8. I remember those days! I had a business teacher in high school, Mrs. Whitman, who would stand in front of the class and purse her lips and we would all quiet down. She had us all at the stern-look- on-her-very-wrinkled face.

  9. Some teachers just have the ability to command respect and attention, just by walking in the room. Others, not so much. I remember the swats in school and how being called in to the principals office for anything bad, meant you did not want to go home that night and get it again even worse.

    Now if you get suspended it just means you get to stay home, surfing the web and playing WoW or other such 'games'.

    It's not punishment at all, it's a flippin vacation!

  10. I remember the fear of bringing home a note from the teacher--our parents would punish us even more!! The teacher was NEVER wrong.

  11. I agree with you. In my day, which really wasn't that long ago. In high school I was spanked many times. I think I would have liked the"Thrower" teacher.

  12. There was a stabbing at my daughter;s primary school.
    She was bullied for 6 months.
    One child took an entire class into "no work" hostage for a whole year, as the teachers had no way of preventing his behaviour.
    The Principal would often take the very naughty boys out for a hot chocolate and a chat, if they got sent to the office too many times.

    Discipline now resides entirely upon the parents instilling respect while the children are young enough to be impresionable. And they are expected to do this without any sort of parenting or discipline training.

    It won't last. This generation of children will be the law changers at some point and they will kick up a fuss when THEIR children misbehave, because they have been taught to consider themselves the centre of the world.

    Except mine, of course. ;-)

  13. It's sad that what you say is true. Teachers don't get any respect/ I taught for a dozen years at the college level but I had leverage since students were paying for their classes.

  14. If I was ever going to teach, I would teach Kindergarten or 1st grade. They are still sweet at that age. I volunteer in my son's Kindergarten class once a week, and the teacher has complete control of that classroom. Those who behave get a yellow "pass" to pick from the prize box at the end of the week. To NOT pick from the prize box...well, that would be a shame. They ALL act well and do their best in class so that they won't be left out from picking from the prize box.

  15. Back in the day, my sixth grade teacher yanked a mouthy girl out of her desk by the hair. Well, not all the way. Mrs. Mac just kept lifting her up while her legs hit the bottom of the one-piece flip-top desk. I suppose her arm got tired, because she stopped, and Mouthy behaved for a week or two.

    There were no hard feelings. Mouthy knew she deserved it. She was not scarred for life, and was, in fact, relieved that she avoided a trip to the principal's office. She did not hold a grudge. Mrs. Mac got her desired result for a short time. Today, Mrs. Mac would be doing hard time, and Mouthy would be headed for a life of crime.


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