Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Memories Monday & Montessori Monday - School Troubles

Oops!

This was supposed to be my Making Memories Monday & Montessori Monday post, but instead of hitting save, I accidentally hit Publish Post...
Well, hope that you will read my post today or else wait and read it tomorrow... your choice!
This post is somewhat long, but hopefully, you will find it worthwhile to read.
It is broken into three troublesome parts...

Please be sure to visit Jody and Lena, over at Mommy Moment, for their Montessori Monday post tomorrow. Also, please pop over to read what Jennifer posts tomorrow at her lovely Adventures in McQuill Land, as part of her Making Memories Monday. Jennifer had wanted folks to share their fond memories but the fondness part of my post does not come until the very end, with the Montessori tie-in. But, this is what happened when I was little and hope that it gives you some food for thought...
So, maybe make a pot of coffee or make some popcorn and pour a soda while you read this...



When I was a little girl, I managed to get "into trouble" at school three times...
 Two of the three times, I was sent to the principal's office for my egregious acts / omissions...
 So, here is the low-down on my naughtiness:

Big Trouble #1: Shoe Clips
In October of my First Grade year, I wet my pants and was sent to the principal's office for doing so...

Now, for the rest of the story:
My teacher had devised a system for going to the restroom, or as they referred to it in parochial school, the "lavatory".
She had a pink shoe clip for the girls and a blue shoe clip for the boys.
Her system was that instead of doing a big group bathroom break, we could go to the bathroom one at a time. We had to place the shoe clip on as kind of a portable hall pass.
Well, right around Halloween, the shoe clips went missing in action.
My teacher was certain that someone did it as a trick and was not happy AT ALL...
She was downright furious, actually...
So, to really show us, we were forbidden to use the lavatory until further notice...
She made this crystal clear...under no circumstances were we even to consider to ask to go to the lavatory, as the answer was going to be no lav visits for an indefinite period of time.
We were all guilty, because even though we personally may have not taken the shoe clips, maybe we knew the students who had taken them, so we were guilty by association...pretty much guilty for being kids, too.
Now, I had been potty trained since a very early age...I knew this factoid because my mom would always tell everyone this nugget of info., as if it was a real accomplishment.
But when you have a teacher who has gone into a total utter rampage over some missing shoe clips and makes you feel like you will be doomed for all eternity if you even dare to question her order or to be even more gutsy and ask to use the lav...you don't dare try to ask her to reconsider...
So, as my teacher proceeded with her day and did the regular routine of breaking us up into blue bells, red birds, and so on...I began to squirm.
I can still remember how uncomfortable it was as I was desperately trying to not wet my pants, but by the end of the day, it was inevitable...
Slowly, I felt a little dribble run down my uniform onto the floor.
A trickle turned into a puddle and then, what looked to me like a pond...
So humiliating...
So wet...
So uncomfortable...
Well, I paid the price and was marched down to the principal's office.
Luckily, the principal was out of her office, so I was instead sent to the school nurse.
The school nurse acted very upset as well...
She muttered something about "what is she thinking" and "U.T. I." and then, huffed down the hallway.
I thought it was going to be over for me...
Yep, tossed out of school in the first grade!
I was sure of it!
Luckily, when the nurse came back, she seemed less angry and helped me change into some dry clothes.
When I got home, I ran off the bus and totally fessed up and through tears, told my mom what had happened...that there was a good chance that I might not be able to go back to school.
She reassured me and then, said that the next time, even if I have been told to not use the bathroom (as we called it in our home), that I should figure out a way to use it.
Maybe before class or at lunch or something...I was not supposed to defy the teacher's orders, but was to work around the rule.
I did not drink any of my milk over the next few days and made certain to use the bathroom before I left on the bus. I also convinced the cafeteria ladies to let me go to the lav that was by the cafeteria...but it was to be kept under wraps...
Thankfully for us, the shoe clips showed up on the scene a few days later, but with several kids having accidents in the interim time...

Big Trouble #2: Paper Jam
Again, in First Grade, but this time, it was later in the year...older and wiser and attending a new parochial school, as we had moved...
Well, it was a Monday and I know this for certain, as that was the day that papers were due back to school.
We got a big stack of papers sent home with us each Friday.
We were expected to have them signed, sealed, and delivered back to school first thing Monday morning.
Well, when our teacher began to collect our papers, I suddenly realized that mine were not signed...
In fact, they weren't even in my book bag...
Oh, the horror...wish that I would have had a can of invisible spray at that moment...
But without the invisible spray, what happened happened...
I had to confess that I had not gotten my papers signed.
I was marched down to the principal's office and was told that I would have to stay there, as it was so naughty for me to not be responsible and for me to not have my papers signed.
I was to sit and think about what I had done.
Well, I sat there...
All day...
In the dark...
Pitch Black Office...
Luckily, this teacher believed in group breaks to the lavatory or else we would have had Wet Pants, Part 2 in addition to The Paper Jam.
Well, I sat and sat...cried a little, but then, stopped, as I figured that I would certainly get into more trouble if they saw me crying and feeling sorry for myself.
I remember smelling the food that the secretaries were eating in the office next to where I was sitting.
My stomach growled, but I did my best to suck it up...
So, near the end of the day, the principal returned and when she flipped on the light switch, she screamed!
I almost passed out!
She said to me, " Just what are you doing here in my office"?!?
I said, " Well, I was sent down here...I did not have my papers signed."
She said something like, "Well, have you learned your lesson"? and I answered "Yes", I had...
"The next time my dad is taken to the hospital and my mom has to go with him,  I will get them to sign the papers before the ambulance leaves."
I had also learned "that I will always eat my breakfast before coming to school, as it is too hard to go without eating."
The principal then asked me how long I had been in her office and I said "Well, it was the morning, right after we had said the pledge and had done our morning group trip to the lav.
It was right around when the papers were collected, which was shortly after morning announcements."
She looked so furious and I thought,
"Okay, this time,
I am really going to be thrown out of school...
I have only been here for a few months.
This is gonna make my mom so upset, as she is already worried about my dad and now, she is going to have to find me a new school."
Well, as it turned out, the principal did something that I totally did not expect...
She told me to stay put and that she would take me out to the bus in a few minutes.
Then, she got up, walked down the hall, and let my teacher have it.
I could hear the principal screaming at my teacher from all the way down the hall.
I was shocked. I still did not know why my teacher was getting yelled at...I just knew it had something to do with the tidbits of the conversation  / shouting I was able to pick up:
hospital...ambulance...no lunch...in the dark all day...how dare you!

Big Trouble # 3: Scissors, Talkers, and the Baby Group
This time, I was a bigger girl, in Second Grade.
I had two seemingly nice, upstanding young teachers...very sweet appearing women, but lacking in understanding (as well as in common sense)...
They seemed almost too nice, although too nice was always better than too mean...
They adored any child that "followed the rules and did not act like a baby."
For discipline, they initially were lacking any real control...they were super nice and the kids seemed to squash them like bugs.
Then, they came up with a few "discipline techniques"...
The first was to assign everyone a class duty...one of the duties was to be the Class Monitor...
If, for any reason, the teacher was called from her room, the Class Monitor was to write the names of the Talkers on the board. Talking when the teacher was out of the room made the teachers look bad with the principal, so this was a big no no...
My job for that particular week was to be the Scissor Collector.
I collected the scissors dutifully the whole week, had them all lined up and placed back perfectly on the shelves every day.
Well, on Thursday of that week, my teacher was called out of the office and so the Class Monitor popped up out of his seat and stood faithfully by the chalkboard, ready to write the names of anyone who even made a peep.
Well, as the Room Monitor was standing guard, I began to collect the scissors.
Well, one of the "Baby Boys" refused to give me his scissors.
In fact, he was having such a good time with them, as he had started to cut his uniform and had even marked with them on his wooden desk.
I was shocked!!!
I kept trying to sign for him to give me the scissors, but to no avail...
I finally made the mistake of saying "Please" and wam, bam...
My name went up on the board under the big, scrolled out TALKERS banner...
Well, this time, I felt doomed either way...
I would have gotten into trouble for not having completed my task in a timely fashion or as my mouth would have it, I now was now in trouble for uttering the word "Please."
My teacher seemed to forgive the fact that I had talked and had said "Please" pretty quickly, so I liked her for that and thought that she seemed to get that even though I had been naughty and had spoken when I was not supposed to, that at my core, I was a " Good Kid." She knew I was from what she perceived was a good family, a good home...I was not like that "Baby Boy."

Edward Scissorhands Wanna-Be also got into trouble, but instead  just having to say that he was sorry for misusing the scissors, he was placed back, once again,  into The Baby Group...once again, a Baby Boy...
Baby Boy had a very sad situation...his dad had died just a few weeks before and he was always crying, always getting into trouble...this boy, who was in so much pain and really needed some help was instead preoccupied with playing with his scissors.
What is The Baby Group, you ask???
This was the ultimate punishment...
If you were repeatedly naughty / immature,  instead of just having to atone for your wrongdoing, you were placed by these two teachers into The Baby Group.
On Fridays of each week, if you were placed in The Baby Group, you had to go and stand inside of a play pen and make a baby sound.Your name stayed on the Baby Group board from the time you were put into the group until that Friday.
Then, after being totally humiliated, you were allowed to slink back to your seat, and then, you were expected to be better the next week. Your name was wiped from the board and you could get a new start for the next week.
Almost all of The Baby Group were boys...the only girl member lived in the lousiest part of our town, pretty much our town's version of the projects,  and if I had to guess, was almost for sure at the school on a scholarship.
She smelled.
She did not have any manners...she did not have any friends...
We all kind of felt that The Baby Group was set up for a handful of boys, and for her...except that it never seemed to work...never made any of them act better.
They all seemed to act worse week after week.
So, the lesson learned here...
 Do exactly what is expected of you and don't you dare associate with The Baby Group, lest their "baby-ness" could rub off on you and then, you would have to sit in the play pen on Fridays, too. Instead, work at being a pet to both teachers...
Go above and beyond what is asked of you, learn to be great at playing jacks, cleaning up before you are asked, and pretty much, try to be perfect in every way (except for showing any sort of compassion or concern for the unfortunates in The Baby Group).

Okay, so there are the memories of naughtiness in school...

But now, here is the Montessori tie-in...

Dr. Maria Montessori took on working with children who were essentially "the throw away kids" of her time.
She took on kids who might have wanted to keep the shoe clip, as they had nothing special of their own to admire...
She took on the kids who would have come to school with dirty clothes...
She took on the children who would not have had their papers signed by the requisite parent.
She took on children who would have made their way into The Baby Group...
The children she worked with were very likely not thought of as the cleanest, the brightest, the most polite, the most polished kids of the time.

And yet, she treated them with dignity...
She treated them with loving care...
She was respectful and kind to them.
And in return, they began to shine.
They began to exceed anyone's expectations for them and began to thrive in her environment she had so lovingly, intelligently, and diligently put together for them.

The norm in her day was to do things to punish children, both physically and mentally, and she did neither thing.
Dr. Maria Montessori instead tried to figure out where these children were coming from, where they needed to go, what made them tick, what would help them to learn.
 She treated everyone respectfully.
She was a person of peace rather than violence or hostility...compassion rather than retaliation or humiliation...instead of whacking a child's hand with a ruler, she would gently guide a child's hand and show them how to trace the constructive triangles or the sandpaper letters.


When I hear of folks who still advocate corporal punishment, or I hear of folks who still try to dictate bathroom breaks, and every other aspect of a child's day, or when I hear of stories of people who in general mistreat children, or those who mistreat children who encourage other children to also mistreat their peers, it makes me not only cringe, it makes me want to simultaneously cry and get really angry.

We, as adults,  need to guide children along their journey in a way that is kind, loving, and respectful.
By doing this, children learn to be respectful, responsible, compassionate, loving, and kind.

When Dr. Maria Montessori stated, "It is in childhood that a person learns to develop, guide, and direct himself on the way of life",  she really nailed it...a true understanding that children deserve to be treated in a caring, respectful way and that by demonstrating this actively to our children, our children will begin to develop and direct themselves on their own life's journey.










7 comments:

Jennifer said...

Hmmm... are memories like these why you homeschool? My goodness! My only lav. memory is of a 3rd grade teacher who when you said, "Can I go to the bathroom?" would say, "I don't know, I would guess you CAN!" I still cringe when I say someone say CAN I rather than MAY I! Thanks for participating in Making Memories Monday again this week. I have the link open now (only a little late), so be sure to go back and link up when you get a moment!

SimplyMontessori said...

This......is amazing. Really hits home with me.Thank you for sharing, for inspiring, just thank you. I have witnessed many similar situations... the boy who was told no when asked to go to the bathroom and the embarrassing accident afterward. The little girl who was told she was bad and was put in the "naughty chair" if she wrote or colored with her left hand in kindergarten (she was left handed). The boy who had an addicted mom who pawned his only toy (that she just gave him for Christmas). He was expelled for getting in a fight the next day on the playground. Again, I thank you for helping me to remember these stories, and for sharing yours.

The Sunshine Crew said...

Some answers to some questions...
No, we are not homeschooling because of these experiences.
Even though they weren't pleasant, they were not anything life shattering.
Actually, when I look back to my parochial school days, it is with much happiness. These were three days out of the entire time from first to eighth grade that were unhappy ones.
These teachers were just lacking in some general life experiences and even though I don't agree at all with what they did, they thought they were justified in their doing so...
When I think back, all of the teachers I mentioned were not moms, so they did not know first-hand how their so-called punishments would impact us kids. They lacked the life experiences that makes you want to have empathy or compassion for another person.

The Sunshine Crew said...

The first teacher with the shoe clips was frustrated, as she bought the clips with her own money...she was viewing it as a theft and thought that if she was tough on all of us, that someone would confess and that she would get the shoe clips back, which she did, but just at the expense of us.
With the second teacher, she was doing what had been set up as protocol, that you would send a kid who had done something wrong to the office.
She just never thought to ask me why my papers weren't signed and I did not think to tell her why. My dad had to go to the hospital in an ambulance, but will have to check with my mom if it was for the time that he was in a car accident and hurt his back (which I am about 99% percent sure that was the time) or if it was when he broke his ankle or maybe leg while playing racket ball.
He went to the hospital by ambulance for both. Am pretty sure it was the car accident, as that would have been on a Sunday. He had gone to church and when he came out and was getting into the car, a person came barreling along and hit him as he was parked. He had not yet put his seat belt on so he got thrown to the passenger side of the car. This was back when the front seats were roomier so he actually was able to be thrown to the passenger side. He hurt his back.
If it was when he went to the hospital after his racket ball debacle, he had played racket ball for the first time and since he is blind in one eye, his perception was off and he came down on his leg, as he could not judge how close he was to the wall.In both cases, he had to go via ambulance. In both cases, my mom had to go to the hospital and we were left with a babysitter.
When this teacher had me go to the office, I almost suspect that she had forgotten that she had sent me down there, or maybe she figured that the principal had decided to keep me for the day. We switched classes, so she probably forgot all about the fact that I was in the office. The principal did not get back to her office until right before the end of the day.

The Sunshine Crew said...

As for the last incident, the two teachers were actually loved by most everyone at the school. They were young and fun and would play jacks with the girls at recess time. They just were lacking in class management, as there were some very young boys and our one poor girl who was really struggling in school, as she had so many other problems going on in her home life. This was before school counselors or psychologists, so she did not get any help, nor did the boy whose dad had died and who was preoccupied with playing with / using his scissors.
In the entire time I was in parochial school, I never witnessed a teacher use corporal punishment, and this was the norm at many other schools at the time. The teachers who came up with The Baby Group thought that by making kids be in The Baby Group, they'd see how silly and inappropriate it was to do babyish things in 2nd grade. They were very misguided.
All of these teachers could have used some time learning about the Montessori philosophy.

Discovering Montessori said...

HI!
Thank You for sharing. I too had the same bathroom experience at school. I guess that why we have two and half bathrooms in our home.(lol)

Heidi said...

Excellent and well written! A top notch post!

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