"No-Touch" Policy

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Luddite?, May 8, 2010.

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  1. Luddite?

    Luddite? New Member

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    May 8, 2010

    I recently learned of an experience where a tap by a teacher with a pointer on the back of a student laying across a table as the student conferred with a friend was labeled a hit by administration. After a quick search (more needed of course), it seems that school systems and teachers prefer a "no-touch" policy (See Armatage Elementary in Minneapolis).

    For me, this issue of human contact is part of our social nature. In fact, as infants there is strong evidence to suggest that audio only or video only tools are useless to infants learning a language (See Aspen Ideas 2009 Festival - Brain Development). Languages are learned through interaction between caregivers and infants. In my own experience, I remember facts from experiences including a social element better than other methods.

    Is a "no-touch" policy good for learning?
     
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  3. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    This is an extremely open-ended question, and you will not find a one-size-fits-all answer for it.
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    My recollection of "failure to thrive" in Romanian orphanages is that the children involved were in the first year or two of life; they were confined to cribs full time during the first years of life and weren't interacted with in any real way, aside from getting diapers changed and the like. It seems a bit extreme to claim that a similarly bad outcome will necessarily follow from a teacher's no-touch policy toward children who are older and who do have families and friends.
     
  5. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    No.

    I agree with you completely in terms of it's value (socially). As teachers, you are expected to do whatever it takes to inspire growth and learning from your students. Some students respond with a pat on the back, or a fist-bump, or a nod, or a wink or respect, or a hug.

    But it's sad that innocuous gestures like these have to be legislated/regulated, on account of perverts and overzealous parents.
     
  6. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    The subject of contact was discussed at length in one of the best in-services I have ever attended.

    At the elementary level and especially at the pre-K level, no touch at all is extremely detrimental. Think about it.......

    You're a child who has been held and loved by your parents since birth, contact means love to them. You are put into a pre-K classroom that you have never experienced and you aren't allowed them to have ANY physical contact. Can you imagine the impact this has on the child and the child's vision of school? Contact is VERY important to a young child and they need to learn appropriate boundaries, but no contact at all breaks an emotional boundary.

    How to do it appropriately is the REAL issue!!!!!! Since that training, I am very concious of what I do in my classroom. How I stand, where my eyes are looking, how we touch, how I gesture, and much more....the body language of interaction with my students sends a BIG message.

    I teach high school, but I spend a LOT of time on my knees beside a student's desk since that training. There are times I sit in the floor near my students' desks and coach them on how to work a problem.

    If they have to crick their neck to look to my face and while I tower over them, it's not inviting to ask questions. For my female students, it get very uncomfortable because I'm in a position that some men will use to look down their shirt. It must be absolutely obvious that I'm only here to teach and I care about them.

    It also depends on the student. If I'm doing something that seems to make the student uncomfortable, I'm not going to do it again and will be concious of that. If I'm doing something that really engages the student, I'm going to do it more often. I had a delightful young lady last year who would say "Come sit by me". It meant she had a question and wanted me to sit on the floor by her desk while we talked about it.

    I do give pats on the shoulder and I do gently put my hand on theirs when I want them to stop or slow down. It works extremely well, but it has to be done carefully so that it is not taken as inappropriate or seriously busting personal space boundaries.

    You also have to be concious of students who don't understand reasonable limits. I have few every year, but not a great many. A quick and pleasant chat about "Hey....I really like having you in class, but......" The rest includes everything from "That's just not lady like" to "That's a bit inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable" to "That's quite rude and I would appreciate you not doing it."
     
  7. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    I teach K-2 and I'm constantly hugged by my students. The always have to ask me by name first though--(I have students who will hug strangers--so we make sure they are safe)

    If I see one is looking a little down, I will ask them "Do you want a hug?" or to congratulate them for good work "Can I give you a hug for that?"

    A friendly pat on the head, high-fives, sometimes a tap on the head with the sheet of paper I'm holding---little things like this help establish rapport.

    I think---I'd avoid tapping with a stick though.
     
  8. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Tapping a student with a stick cannot be equated with touching a student. For me, touching a student means a hand on the shoulder or the arm, a hug, a high five. One means that we care, the other, not so much.
     
  9. skittleroo

    skittleroo Connoisseur

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    I do believe kids need touch. I constantly give hugs, high fives, pats on heads (I teach kinder). My relationship with kids allows them to thrive. However, I would NEVER tap a student if they were doing something wrong. Never know the interpretation.
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I have to be very careful of student contact since I'm a male teacher in middle school. I have no problem giving lots of high-fives and fist-bumps to the kids, but one of my female students (or former student, since I'm no longer doing my student teaching) often runs up and hugs me when she sees me.

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to watch my former students play a softball game. They made a great comeback to win the game in the last inning. I had made my way down to the dugout for the last two innings and several of the girls gave me high-fives and a couple gave me hugs again. It didn't occur to me until a little later that their parents most likely saw this, but none of them said anything and there was no report to the principal about it. Still, it is always better to err on the side of caution, so I mainly stick to high-fives when I can.
     
  11. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    :yeahthat:
     
  12. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I agree wholeheartedly with you, Missy! :thumb:

    Let me give you an example. I teach 2nd grade. I get countless hugs each day--from the time I open my car door in the parking lot to the time I leave campus each day. Students (current, former, and future) are always hugging me. In fact, sometimes they come up from behind me and squeeze the heck out of me (which sometimes makes me uncomfortable). Anyway, I really don't mind hugs, but it's not often that I initiate one. I do, however, give a ton of pats on the back, high-fives, and handshakes (especially with the fourth & fifth graders).

    Now, if I worked in middle school or high school, I'd probably not want to have any physical contact with students--especially hugs. I just wouldn't feel comfortable.

    Again, just like Missy said--"there's not a one-size-fits-all answer!"
     
  13. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Yeah....the little ones will come up and hug you with no warning, and I hear you, when I was subbing 1st grade, a kid also came up from behind me and did what they did to you (and I was a bit surprised). I also will not initiate hugs but like to do high fives and fist bumps.

    I too will not do hugs with middle and high schoolers as well.
     
  14. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    The male presence on this thread is interesting. It really shows how careful we have to be as male teachers so as to not come across as inappropriate.

    To answer your question, I agree that touch is very important in the younger grades. It fosters learning and makes kids feel more comfortable in their environment.
     
  15. mrsleapfrog

    mrsleapfrog Companion

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    I am a second grade teacher and receive many hugs as well. However, this year I found myself in a rather uncomfortable situation with a particular little boy. He initiates hugging and leat 6-8 times a day and comes at me frontal in which I quickly turn to the side. He has walked up and put his arms around me and rests his hand on my bottom. He has also tapped his pencil on my bottom to get my attention. I found this disturbing and have had many talks with him telling him that makes me uncomfortable and I would appreciate that he stop. He still has not stopped and now when he is walking up to me I tell him "no".
    I had a whole class discussion about personal boundaries and that we each have a bubble around us. However, another little boy went home and told his mom that I don't like hugs. I found out that she was talking about me on the ball field and out in public. This is a very hard topic to have a definite answer to.
     
  16. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    That is big time boundary violations Mrsleapfrog. Have you called the parents to talk to them directly about it? In addition to discussing what is not appropriate, I presume that you have talked to him about how to touch/hug appropriately.
     
  17. skittleroo

    skittleroo Connoisseur

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    that would make me uncomfortable as a woman.....
     
  18. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I can't imagine a no touch policy. Backing away from the 100's of hugs I get each day would be very sad!
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    If the choice for my children is being "tapped" with a stick or not being touched at all by a teacher, please know that my lawyer and I would prefer that you leave the touching to us.

    My kids get lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles. "Failure to thrive" as was the case with those Romanian orphan infants, is not an issue. (And are you implying that, had they been "tapped" with a stick, those infants would have shown improvement??? I did a little research on the topic before we decided to adopt my son; nowhere did I find evidence that being hit with a stick by an adult would lead to improvement.)

    Of course, the response that makes sense is a happy medium. But as long as anyone out there sees "tapping" a child with a stick as appropriate, put me firmly in the "hands off" camp.
     
  20. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    tap a table, tap a chair, tap the blackboard, tap a wall...do NOT tap my child.

    Hugs and high fives and fist bumps are another story, but, I agree with Alice. As long as there are adults in the schools who can't tell the difference, then I'd prefer you leave the touching to me.
     
  21. newbie1234

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    I don't know if it's good for learning, but it's good for not getting sued. Not only would I never touch a student, I would never be alone with a student behind closed doors.
     
  22. gigi

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    This is actually a problem for a 62 yr old teacher in a neighboring town right now. Apparently she "flicked" a spec. ed student on the back of the head for not following directions in a science lab and after repeatedly asking him to, she flicked the back of his head. He told his parents she "hit" him, the teacher was suspended for 3 days and now has been arrested and is facing court charges in June.
    Since I am a pre/k teacher I receive lots of hugs and kisses during the day. With little ones it is unavoidable.
     
  23. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    I touch. I hug, a hold and I wipe tears. I am their teacher, their mother, and their advisor for 8 hours a day. I enjoy their hugs and I give them back. I teach 6 year olds, but I even hugged my older kids when I taught upper grades. I remember when I was pregnant with my son and I was going on leave. My 6th grade boys swarmed me and told me that they loved me and would miss me. That meant so much more than anything else. So I guess you can say I believe in touch.
     
  24. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I'm not really sure why you feel the need to mention the threat with your lawyer every time the subject of physical discipline or contact is discussed, but since you obviously feel so strongly on the subject, I assume you follow the same, strict "Hands Off" policy in your own classroom.

    Do the other teachers and admin in your school follow this policy (or a similar one) as well?
     
  25. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Cerek, I don't think Alice has expressed here that she insists on a "no touch" policy. She indicates that if a teacher can't tell the difference, they should avoid touching.

    I probably wouldn't have sent my kids to the preschool they went to if there had been a "no-touch" policy in place. Never once did I have even a shadow of a concern about any teacher in the school.

    That said, I think the "tap" with a stick is entirely inappropriate, and both it and the flick to the back of the head merit civil suits under common law. Formally, the test would be whether a reasonable person would find the contact offensive. Under most circumstances, I'd likely be pretty offended if someone were to get my attention by contacting my head with a stick, particularly if it were done in a sharp manner (and when teachers say, "get a student's attention", it sounds a lot like code for "rap them sharply" -- which is more than a mild prod).
     
  26. Major

    Major Connoisseur

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    I never initiate a hug from any of my 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade kids...... but never refuse one either. I get tons of hugs from kids as well (as female teachers) every time I sub. I sometimes wonder if I have a "hug me" sign taped to the back of my shirt....:p

    I would never hug a middle school or high school kid. I'm very big into high fives and fist bumps .... all age groups .... and do that throughout the day.

    I've never "tapped" a student with a ruler or stick. I know times have changed, but I remember well getting whacked on the butt for misbehaving by the principal when I was in middle school. (They were always well deserved..:lol:) It didn't keep me from living and enjoying a successful life.
     
  27. ms.

    ms. Comrade

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    In one of my education classes we were taught how to turn a full-hug into a side-hug. The professor had former students (mostly males) who taught middle/high school and had been falsely accused of sexual harassment- often times it stemmed from a girl hugging them. The side hug is really more of a back pat - and it safer than a front hug.

    I teach at the middle school level, I had some girls who would hug me when they saw me (I had been their student teacher, I would still teach at that school occasionally, so they might see me every few weeks.) I would only give side hugs. I had some boys who tried to give me a hug once or twice, I suspected ulterior motives and quickly said "high-five" and prevented the hug.

    There are some times when you just can't prevent hugs though, I know its just a risk of being a teacher. On my last day of student teaching one of the sixth grade girls was crying and ran up and gave me a hug good-bye. It would have been almost cruel to stick my hand up and say "high-five." (I've also had one case in which a student lost a parent. I'm not going to stop that student from giving me a hug. It's almost inhuman to think of saying never allow hugs.)

    I would defiantly recommend turning the hugs into side hugs. It's easier to misinterpret a full hug than a side hug.
     
  28. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Excellent Post, ms!!! :thumb:

    My experience has been very similar to yours. I am currently working as a 21st Century tutor at the same school where I did my student teaching, so I get to see my former students every day. The girl that was always running up to hug me now gives me a "high five" instead, so it's all good. The hugs at the softball game were just excited celebration hugs, so I don't think the parents cared (the girls initiated the hugs and I instinctively did my best to make it a side hug).

    On my last day of student teaching, my first class of 7th graders came up and gave me a big group hug, so there was no way to turn them all into side hugs. My CT got a good laugh out of the somewhat helpless/concerned expression on my face as the girls (in the front of the group) gathered all around me and wrapped me in their arms. I held MY arms up high, so it wouldn't be misinterpreted. After the students left, though, the CT told me it wasn't anything to worry about and I should be flattered the kids liked me enough to do that.
     
  29. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    There is a huge difference between a touch and a tap of a stick. I do not use a tap when disciplining students in the classroom. The 'look', proximity, or a slight touch on the shoulder with nothing said is enough to stop a student from doing what they shouldn't be. I teach 7th grade so I'm always careful of hugs. Luckily none of the boys try. There is a lot of high fives and fist bumps though. You also have to know your students. I know the ones that I can play around with and the ones that wouldn't appreciate it.
     
  30. ms.

    ms. Comrade

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    I also could not escape a group hug on the last day of student teaching in my homeroom class. :D Almost the same exact thing happened to me. My CT laughed at my "help!" look! She said, "Alright, I think Ms. 'Smith' needs some space kids."
     
  31. ms.

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    Sometimes I'll touch or lightly tap on a student's book or worksheet to help refocus them. Eye-contact and proximity are good for redirection as well. I've never heard of tapping student w/ a stick before, and I personally think it sounds like a bad idea.
     
  32. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I don't know what to think about the fact that you think enough of my posts to see a pattern. In the words of every teenager in the country: "... Whatever."

    Here's what I posted:
    "
    If the choice for my children is being "tapped" with a stick or not being touched at all by a teacher, please know that my lawyer and I would prefer that you leave the touching to us.

    My kids get lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles. "Failure to thrive" as was the case with those Romanian orphan infants, is not an issue. (And are you implying that, had they been "tapped" with a stick, those infants would have shown improvement??? I did a little research on the topic before we decided to adopt my son; nowhere did I find evidence that being hit with a stick by an adult would lead to improvement.)

    Of course, the response that makes sense is a happy medium.
    But as long as anyone out there sees "tapping" a child with a stick as appropriate, put me firmly in the "hands off" camp."


    There's a huge difference between physical contact-- high fives and so on-- and physical discipline. As I stated in the 3rd paragraph,I have no issue with the first, and a huge issue with the second.

    So, yes, I give high fives. They're not punitive and they don't cause injury. They're not meant to inspire fear, but rather support. They're given and received joyfully.

    I don't tap children with sticks. Any teacher in my school who did would find himself unemployed with remarkable efficiency.

    As to why this would be a legal matter: I think it's fairly straightforward. Part of my job as a parent is to protect my children from those who would do them harm. I love those kids, and will do whatever is in my power to protect them from those who would choose to hurt them. Adults have no business "tapping" or "Poking" or otherwise using their physical size, stature or authority (and much less a stick!!!) to harm children. It's assault. That's a legal matter, hence the lawyer and/or police.


    As a teacher in this country, I'm a mandated reporter. That means it's part of my job-- a legal responsibility-- to report abuse of children if and when I see it or evidence of it. If I saw a parent hit a child with a stick, I would call. If I saw a teacher hit a child with a stick, I would call. It makes no difference who is doing the hitting; as a mandated reporter I'm legally require to make the call.

    I will continue to remind teachers here and anywhere else I need to that if you hurt my children, or anyone's children, I will do my best to ensure that you go to jail for doing so.
     
  33. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Last week I was never more grateful to teach K and have a student ask me if I needed a hug. I truly did. I had a stressful week. Just when I'm being evaluated, I find myself a bit on edge and a little cranky. It's not like me but my student recognized it and a little bit later asked if I needed a hug. I surely did. I melted. Then we took a zen moment and meditated as a class for one minute (sit like a pretzel, do our finger to middle finger touch and breathe deeply). They smile every time we do this and it sets off the giggles sometimes. Anyways, turns out I managed the stress load really great...or so I thought...until I realized after this evaluation and was reflecting on it that I had not eaten in TWO whole days! How the heck did that happen?! Obviously my blood sugar was low. The little perceptive mind though gave me pause and made me realize I was a bit off kilter and that was just enough to get me back on track and reflecting on the day and realizing just what happened. Wowsers. Thanks goodness for hugs!

    I can see where the philosophy of hugs changes as students get older and where gender plays a role. There are a number of factors. I have one student who doesn't feel comfortable with hugs and I'm aware of that. I rarely initiate them and would never force one on a child.
     
  34. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    Isn't it amazing how much more quickly they are able to pick up on that than adults? Sometimes my students know I'm having a rough day even before I do!
     
  35. Major

    Major Connoisseur

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    When I read the OP's post I interpreted the "tap" as a "gentle touch".... certainly not as a "whack" meant to cause any pain whatsoever . :confused::confused:

    Again, I don't use a ruler or pointer to "tap" anyone to get their attention. My voice, tone, and look work for me every time.
     
  36. ms.

    ms. Comrade

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    I don't think a light touch with a hand on the shoulder is necessarily a horrendous act in and of itself. (For example: Child is leaning back in chair & a teacher lightly taps his shoulder.) However, I think that it would be so easy to misinterpret, and would leave a teacher very vulnerable to disciplinary action. It's just not a smart thing to do in today's world.

    I have had kids in my classes who will exaggerate to their over-dramatic parent. The said parent will blow out of proportion the child's story and havoc ensues. It's just seems like common sense to not tap a student.
     
  37. Major

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    Or you could just not do anything but call the mom on the spot and ask her to tell her son/daughter NOT to lean back in the chair....... :lol::lol::lol:

    If mom refuses to take action then I guess the entire class is at a stalemate.......:p:p
     
  38. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Yes, I have noticed a pattern. Since joining these forums, I've seen this same basic comment (or a variation of it) about a half-dozen times, usually in threads discussing physical contact (such as the "tap" in this one) or corporal punishment.

    I understand what you posted this time. As I said before, I was speaking more to the pattern of always including the threat of a lawsuit in your responses towards anyone who would harm "your" kids with physical punishment. It's also difficult to tell if you mean your own kids, your students or both in this particular context.

    Of course there is a huge difference between "high fives" and a "tap" from a pointer. I thought it would be obvious I meant the latter form of "contact" since I conflated it with physical discipline. I apologize for not stating that more clearly.

    I understand you feel strongly on this subject and I respect your passion, but the act of spanking/paddling, by itself, is not considered abuse, unless done in an excessive manner.

    Laws of New York

    Neglecting a child includes unreasonably inflicting or allowing the infliction of harm or substantial risk thereof, including excessive corporal punishment. Family Court § 1012. [Civil Code] Parent/guardian/other person with care and supervision of person under 21, can use non-deadly physical force when and to the extent he reasonably believes necessary to maintain discipline or promote welfare of person force performed upon. Penal § 35:10. [Criminal Code]

    Source: State by state spanking laws

    Likewise, I think it would be difficult to convince a judge that a light "tap" from a pointer or ruler constituted assault - especially if it left nor mark on the child.

    Please note I'm not condoning the "tap" nor necessarily endorsing corporal punishment (in fact, I agreed early in the thread that the "big stick" was a bad idea). I'm merely pointing out that the legal definition does not classify spanking or a "tap" as abuse.

    Now that that has been addressed a little more clearly, I will return to my previous question.

    I assume that, due to your strong conviction on the subject, you follow a strict "Hands Off" policy in your own classroom when it comes to discipline or behavior modification (except in the case of positive reinforcers like "high fives").

    Do other staff and admin at your school follow a similar "Hands Off" policy (ie, no physical forms of discipline or punishment for any reason)?
     
  39. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    May 10, 2010

    As described, the tap with a stick would almost certainly fail to pass the test implied in Penal § 35:10 [Criminal Code] that the use of force (a) be intended for the discipline or welfare of the student and (b) be administered in a manner consistent with school or district policy; at any rate, it would be unsurprising if a judge were to rule against the teacher with the pointer on that basis.
     
  40. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    May 11, 2010

    For starters, my opinions are my own. But to answer your question, any teacher who physically touched a student in a punitive matter would be unemployed faster than you can believe. As I've said a number of times-- I guess I am pretty consistent-- I'm a good fit for my school.

    I also think we have to address the idea of basic human dignity. Whether or not you're big on the ethical treatment of animals, I think we should all be able to agree that human beings should be treated with basic dignity. In my mind, adults prodding children with sticks is counter to that concept. If someone attempted to punish me or get my attention in that matter, you can be sure I would express my outrage. That outrage is there when I hear of the same actions being used against children.

    Do they need discipline at school? Sure. Does it need to involve a pointer or yardstick or cattle prod or any other implement? No, absolutely not. If you need to flick a child on the head or tap him with a stick to get his attention, I suggest you work on your classroom management. There are far better ways to achieve the same goal.

    Also, for those of you in the "pro- tapping with a stick" crowd, a few questions:
    Is this behavior you willingly show off? Do you tap children on the head with a stick during observations? Is it something you brag about at your year end evaluations or at job interviews? Is it one of the classroom management techniques you discuss with your coworkers over lunch? Do you mention it to parents at your opening Back to School Night talks?

    My teaching is an open book. There's nothing I do for observers that I don't do on a regular basis. I teach with my door open for all the world to see. Aside from an occasional computational error, there's nothing in my class that I would be embarassed to see on the TV news. I don't hurt or embarass or degrade my kids.
     
  41. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    May 11, 2010

    I don't doubt you are a good fit for your school. You're tenure would certainly suggest the school is very satisfied with the job you do.

    I understand you feel very strongly on this issue. It's a controversial topic and emotions can run deep on both sides. I have different issues I feel very strongly about as well, but I try to remove my emotions (as much as I can) and view these issues objectively, because strong emotions can lead to exaggeration.

    A "tap" on the shoulder or back is not the same (IMO) as "prodding" a child and equating a pointer to a cattle prod is extremely hyperbolic. I'm not saying the "tap" with the pointer was a good idea, but it is not the same as treating the kids like cattle.
     
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