How was school today?

The schools around here have all kinds of creative ways to try to keep the peace in the classroom.  Lord knows young people need to be reigned in and all that unruly, free-spirited  behavior needs to be brought under control.

The best method for motivating behavioral change is the big challenge for educators.  In the past an effective tool for correction was the rod.  My sister-in-law tells of a time when a child would receive a spanking from the teacher if the parent granted permission.  Before that, no permission was necessary.  I’ve heard of ruler whacking and paddle whipping.  My husband couldn’t sit comfortably for days after receiving his consequence from the gym teacher for peeking in the girls locker room.

Thankfully, all that spanking business gave way to the proverbial carrot method, with reward trumping punishment, as the preferred means of discipline.  And so I watched for a whole year the miserable disappointment of my oldest son who could never go a whole week without getting his name written on the board. The reward for going all week without disturbing the class, was to pick something out of the prize jar.   Some weeks, he would actually make it until Wednesday, but on Thursday all that good behavior was for naught because he’d shout out an answer without raising his hand or talk to his buddy while the teacher was speaking.  I confess that I felt stressed and judged as a parent because he couldn’t access the nickel toys and gummy bears.  Everyday, when he came home from school, the first thing he would say is, “I didn’t (or did) get may name on the board.”

I can’t recall the method of discipline they used on me when I was in school.  I know that I talked a lot in class.  Maybe I came home with a note from my teacher in my pocket or a bad behavior mark on my quarterly report card.  Probably my dad  lavished on the restrictions.  I don’t really know because I was too busy having fun to notice or to care; water off a duck’s back.

Today, I discover from my granddaughter, they don’t put your name on the board anymore but use a color system.  Everyone starts with the color brown and if you disturb the class you move to another color, I think it’s green.  Two offenses and you get a yellow, and so on.  There are different prizes for different colors at the end of each day (at least you don’t have to go a whole week).  Every day the first thing we hear about school is, “I got a brown, or green, or yellow.”

I used to tell my son that he could do it and that I was so proud of him on those Wednesdays when he had made it that far, and then I would cross my anxious fingers and hold my anxious breath.  I used to believe that everybody else’s kid was sitting still in a chair at attention all week-long.  I used to read books on discipline and try every thing they suggested to make my children the poster kids for classroom etiquette.  I used to be a mother of school aged children, but now I am a grandmother.

I pick her up from school and she proceeds to tell me that she got a green today.  Being the understanding, loving grandmother that I am, not feeling at all  responsible for her behavior (let the parents do that), and wanting to encourage her unique little personhood, I say,”Well honey, it’s really hard to stay on brown all day, every single day.”

“Oh, I could get a brown every single day,” she says.

“Really?” I’m amazed.  “Every single day?”

“Yes, I could always be on brown………….. if they would just let me talk!”