Monday, March 19, 2018

Public Shaming

I'm attempting to write everyday in March.Today is post 19 of 31.

It seems we haven't absorbed our lessons from Hawthorne's Hester Prynne. Public shaming is still as prevalent as ever, even though many point to today's teens as being the true guilty parties. What I've reflected on, however, is how ubiquitous the notion of shaming can be, even if sometimes led with good intentions. For example, in teaching English, we often say that to be a teacher of readers, one needs to be a teacher who reads. Yet I've been with friends where you begin to wonder what is "enough" to be considered a teacher who reads. If I read one book written for kids each week, is that enough? Or does it need to be five books a week? More? Even when I lead with good intentions, my constant sharing of what I read (which I do and have done), am I shaming someone who doesn't read as much as I do? How do I balance that?

As a person whose profession is teaching, I've absolutely been publicly shamed. I've been blessed in twenty-two years of teaching, I am aware of it happening only three times - once in a letter to the editor, twice on Facebook. (Darn social media) It didn't matter if the facts were there, or even correct. It didn't matter what my side of the story way. People spoke hatefully about me and it hurt. Seeing people I knew and trusted do the same, simply made it worse.

And here's what I realized today, it hurt and I am an adult. Watching people judge my actions, without all of the facts, hurt. I thought about it, a lot. I doubted myself. I wondered if I was in the right profession. I was sick to my stomach. I know my intentions are good. I still felt like crap. I wished people would come talk to me first before venting on a public forum. I wish they wouldn't feel the need, or want the power, of letting the mob vilify someone else. What had I really done to them? But eventually, I was able to let it go.

As teachers, I think - unfortunately - many of us have experienced this. It sucks. If parents had any idea what it does to our psyche, I have to hope they'd think before they shared. Or, at the very least, just bashed us when they got together with friends the next time, not on social media. So, my fellow colleagues, why do we do this to students? You know what I'm talking about...

Some version of this...

Or the same idea, using technology...

Today I heard a colleague's child come in after school. The first words out of their mouth were the color they were on at the end of the day.

What the hell.

I taught the primary grades. I didn't want my students rushing home, ready to see their parents for the first time since the early morning, and the most important thing they had to share was their behavior. Where's the joy for learning? The cool books shared at school? The crazy games played? The friendships formed?

My boys are now in 9th and 7th grade. I hated the behavior charts when they were in classes that had them. I was certain they were on the way out, they'd been around for awhile, but years later and they're still here. I do not get it.

To me, behavior charts are all about control. If the class is quiet, compliant, then the teacher is doing a good job, right? UGH. Where's the learning? There are times, of course, that we need our classes to be quiet. There are also times that kids can get too loud, been there too. But, to me, behavior charts aren't the way to get your class where it needs to be. Relationships are. Getting to know kids. Talking to them. Creating engaging lessons. Does that mean every child will behave all the time? Nope. But I'll take that. I'd rather work with kids individually. I'd rather develop plans with them, tell them why I need them to not do "X". Otherwise you end up with kids like the boy who is now a senior in our high school and confided in my back in fourth grade that he felt he was a "bad kid" because he was often on red in the lower grades. (Nope, he just couldn't sit still.) Or the girl who could tell her mom the names of all the "bad boys" in class when they had to move their clip again that day. (Side note, how often is it our boys that are "on red." Something to think about, coming from a mom to boys.) 

Behavior charts are just another means of public shaming and as adults, we know how hurtful that is. Do we really want that to be the focus of our students' days? When they reflect back on their time in our classroom, do we want them to simply remember how often they were on "red"? Or do we want them to remember how we made them feel. What they learned about. How much they loved school. I still remember every person who said a hateful comment about me on Facebook. I remember how they made me feel. I don't wish that on any child so please, get rid of public shaming in our classrooms. Our kids deserve better.