Saturday, June 11, 2005

On Corporal Punishment...

The first-years had a good dialogue (verbal and written) on corporal punishment this week. It started with a debate in EDSE 500 and then carried over in some of the blogs. More and more uses for the blogs are becoming apparent; uses that Ann, Germain, and I hadn't even thought of. Ann says her new favorite phrase in class is, "Blog it out." When there is no time for a continued debate Ann will tell them to "Blog it out..."

The debate over corporal punishment is one that every first-year MTC group has. I'm sure all of our alumni remember their heated arguments during the summer about it. Each year most of the incoming class is opposed to corporal punishment (I remember being surprised that corporal punishment was still legal in the U.S.) and each year some people change their views as the year goes on. For others, their opposition only becomes more resolute. It is rare that MTC teachers use corporal punishment but when a student is referred to the office that student will likely be paddled by an administrator. In most districts corporal punishment has been used for years. Whether for or against corporal punishment the key is finding an effective consequence for students that choose to break class rules. Ann and I have been discussing various consequences (as well as having our own spirited debate on the pros and cons of corporal punishment). One of the keys is creating an environment in your classroom where there are rewards for positive behavior. Rewards for positive group behavior are the most effective because then the class creates a self-policing environment. Once you reach this point most discipline problems melt away. However, getting the culture of the class to reach this point in a school environment where there is not much organization or culture of positive rewards is the trick. It takes a lot of time, effort, and creative thinking. That, of course, is the benefit of corporal punishment; it requires very little time or creative thinking.

Some people worried in their blogs (and verbally to me) about hurt feelings. This is how I explained it to the first-years: MTC is like one big family. We sit around the dinner table (in this case the dinner table is the classroom and the internet) and have heated arguments but at the end of the day we are all family. Even though we may disagree on certain issues we all support and care about one another. Over the course of the next two years this group will become the closest of friends and colleagues. They will become family. That is something I see a lot of in the second-years. I don't know if they realize right now how rare it is, in your professional life, to be part of such a close-knit group that cares for one another, that holds the same collective values of service, and that is a high-achieving, intelligent, capable collection of people. You don't find that often and only afterwards do you realize how special and unique it is.

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