What's worse than a classroom full of bullies picking on the messy kid? Why, a classroom full of bullies picking on the messy kid because their teacher TOLD them to, of course! Which can only be topped by the news that the teacher's punishment was just one day off without pay.
The story comes out of Tennessee, where a 38-year veteran teacher named Debbie Hayes apparently had had it up to here with a kindergartner's messy desk. So she decided to use old-fashioned peer pressure to get him to clean up his act. Peer pressure, that is, in the form of having the other kids gather round the boy in a circle "oinking" and calling him a pig.
Not surprisingly, the child broke down into tears. Need I remind you, he's FIVE? I'm the MOTHER of a 5-year-old, and I'd probably cry if a group of people crowded around me, surrounding me, oinking at me, and calling me a pig. What Hayes created was, in essence, a pack of bullies, who were given free reign to be cruel to their classmate. Surrounding him on all sides, he had nowhere to turn to find a friendly face. It was the very essence of torture.
And all because a 5-year-old child in his first year of "real" school is messy? I repeat again, he's a kindergartner. He's at the stage where kids are just learning the varied aspects of socialization, including the concept that their own space needs to stay clean, lest it encroach on the areas of others. He can't expect to have mastered that skill at 5.
I say this from experience. My 5-year-old loves to make messes, and she hates to clean them up with a capital HATE. But as the year has gone on, her report card marks on the section dedicated to how a child takes care of their own belongings has steadily risen as she's slowly been socialized by her teacher and her peers ... and by a gentle hand at home. Note, I said gentle. Five is a tough age to categorize. They are at once little and big, still prone to begging the teachers for hugs, already telling Mom and Dad, "I can do it myself!"
I can understand Hayes' frustration. As I said, my child HATES to clean up her messes. We're working on it, but it's not fun living in a warzone as we stick to our guns. But our job is to teach her to be responsible for her own things, not to degrade and bully her into doing our bidding. That's something Hayes seems to have forgotten -- that she's there to mold young minds, not to tear them apart.
Do you think one day without pay was enough of a punishment for this sort of action?
Image via jere-me/Flickr