My story of being disciplined at school

punishment word

Yesterday I was going through the cashier line at the grocery store. On that day there were Girl Scouts packing customer groceries in hopes for contributions for a cause.  My local grocer usually expects customers to pack their own groceries, so in appreciation I gave her a few bucks. Out of nowhere, a memory shot into my head, so I said to her with a laugh “I used to be in the Girl Scouts as a kid, but told my mom I wanted to quit because the leader always made me stand in the corner.” I told her that I stood in the corner enough at school. I didn’t need that punishment at Girl Scouts, too.

When I got home, I started thinking about how I was often disciplined at school as a child and teen. It was much more often than most (or all) of the girls, or even some of the boys. And yet I smiled thinking how I’d probably do the same things again, if I had a chance.

My husband and I never had kids, so I have no idea what school discipline is like nowadays. My school days were in the 1970s and 1980s – first in Pennsylvania, and then in New Jersey. I have read that discipline has changed a little since then, and also varies depending on what state you live in. I imagine it varies a lot around the world, too.

My first memories of discipline at school usually resulted from me talking when I was supposed to be quiet, not doing my homework, talking back to or challenging the teacher, and coming out with a cuss word (or three). It took me a while to realize that homework wasn’t optional. My parents never really asked about it like many parents do. The excessive talking was just me. I was known to be very gabby, liked to answer every question, and socialize. Challenging teachers was something I did my entire childhood through teen years. If I thought a teacher was wrong, unjust, or saying/doing something they weren’t supposed to, I spoke up. Most teachers obviously didn’t like that!

Dunce cap.pngI haven’t a clue how many times I was sent to the corner of the classroom to “think about” what I had done. The reality was that I actually enjoyed it. I sat there rather daydreaming about things I liked. In one class I would be sent to the corner behind the cubby wall. There it was dark and kind of cool like a fort or something. When the teacher would call me back to my desk I was disappointed.

Even better than being sent to the corner was being sent out to the empty hallway. Did the teacher think I’d be out there crying or something? Heck no! I loved to dance from my very earliest years. Once she shut the door I’d be sashaying, doing leaps, and other movements enjoying the sound of my feet on the tile floors. Music played in my head the whole time. When the teacher opened the door, she’d catch me in the act and call me back in, probably realizing my “punishment” was more like a treat.

I remember being told a few times to write a sentence numerous times on the blackboard as a “lesson”. In one particular case, I was really mad. I had been helping the least popular girl make a paper cup out of a sheet of paper. I felt good being nice to her when others wouldn’t, but the teacher didn’t see it as a good act. She ordered me to write “I will not waste paper” again and again on the blackboard. Every time I wrote that sentence I was cursing her in my mind.

Out of curiosity, I looked up whether US states still allow corporal punishment in schools (meaning hitting, spanking, or “the paddle”). Interestingly, New Jersey outlawed that way back in the late 1800s, but Pennsylvania didn’t outlaw it until after I was in elementary school. Would you believe that many states still allow it today? Check out the map in the link School Corporal Punishment in the United States.  Do the red states versus blue states look familiar? If you live in one of the red states and have children in school there now, have you heard of your child or others being punished physically by teachers or principals? If you read that article, there is a very disconcerting fact mentioned. It mentions the disproportionate tendency in some of those “red” states to physically punish black students over white.

corporal punishment in schoolsIn Pennsylvania in the 1970s, it was common for students to get the “paddle”, which was used to spank children who misbehaved. My sister, brother and I all had the “paddle” at least once. I guess we all had a little naughtiness in us. When I had it (given by the principal), I was actually given a choice. He said “Do you want the paddle or do you want to stay after school as punishment?” Like Sis and Bro, the obvious choice was the paddle. All three of us knew that if we came home late for dinner, the punishment would be far worse. The paddle didn’t hurt at all. All three of us recalled holding back laughs when it was administered. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really support schools administering corporal punishment, but at the same time I wouldn’t want my child (if I had one) to receive other punishment more psychologically damaging.

When we moved to New Jersey, after school or weekend detentions were the norm, and I had a few of them. In these cases, the punishment was mostly for talking back or challenging teachers. I had a mind of my own and extremely strong opinions, as a teen. I also made a habit of waging complaints against the teacher to other school staff. Actually, I remember doing so as a little kid once, too. I think I was maybe eight years old when the nasty teacher asked for my homework. I told her I couldn’t find it. The truth was I hadn’t done it. She went into a rage. She flipped over my desk, causing a loud slam and papers flying. Then she went to my cubby and tossed out all the papers there, too. She ordered me to pick them up and then go to the principal. When I got to the principal, I waged a major complaint against her calling her violent and saying that she made many of the students cry, including the popular boys. But I never cried. The principal told me to ask her what she wanted me to do in recompense, but I think he deep down knew she was acting inappropriately, and restrained from penalizing me himself.

I am a law-abiding adult, and generally a peaceful and kind woman. I never did anything that bad in my life, or when I have, I have learned lessons and repented in some way. However, sometimes punishments are unwarranted or excessive. In those cases, we must endure them, or find a way to make them not so bad.

Were you a naughty child/teen in school? What kinds of punishment/discipline did you receive there?

10 thoughts on “My story of being disciplined at school

  1. Joshua Shea March 19, 2018 / 5:51 pm

    Very well written. Reminded me a lot of growing up. I’m from the Northeast, but a few years back I spent a couple months in Texas and got to know a lot of people. There were a group of younger men, all in their early 20s, who would often talk about their glories on the football field. Many of these stories involved one of them doing something wrong and “getting some licks from the coach”. Many of us from other parts of the country had no idea that this kind of stuff still happened. When we addressed the lunacy of beating on someone, they looked at us like it was completely normal, acceptable and that they would continue the proud tradition of physical violence to get results. I don’t know if putting a kid in the hall or a Saturday detention is the answer, because like you, I could find the positive in those situations, but I don’t think things would have been any different if I had been hit. I probably would have ended up even worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 19, 2018 / 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Joshua, for reading my post and sharing about your Texan friends. The best way to discipline certainly does vary, and many would find the ideas from psychologists ridiculous in some ways. As said, I don’t like the idea of corporal punishment in schools. I’ll admit that I did get some spanks and whacks from my parents as a child and teen. Since I’ve never been a mother, I guess it’s hard for me to really know what is best. I suppose I have felt that the whack is a quick shock and unlike longer punishments is sometimes a little easier to bear. But the problem is how such things are administered. And a spanking or quick whack to one person means something quite different to another.

      I can’t help but dislike that idea of some people, like Donald Trump, to arm certain teachers. If you remember my story about that teacher who had an angry outburst, it makes me wonder if similar angry impulses could have disastrous results.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joshua Shea March 19, 2018 / 6:31 pm

        I got the whacks from my dad, and it always seemed like a reactionary way of dealing with me without much thought behind it. And once you learn you can take a swat, you can just measure it against the reason for getting it. Ironically, my dad (and mother) were teachers. I feel much safer with them not having guns.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight March 19, 2018 / 6:46 pm

        You wrote “And once you learn you can take a swat, you can just measure it against the reason for getting it.” This is SO true! I will confess that a couple of times I did deserve it. Oddly, not really from my father. My father was too rough with my brother, but not really with me or my sister. But I could really test my mom’s nerves and I did say a thing or two to her that was pretty nasty. I could really harass her on occasion, too. When I got those whacks (or one was a jab in my side with her elbow when we were sharing a bed at a hotel once), I thought “Yea, I really went too far!”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Irene March 19, 2018 / 6:05 pm

    I remember one teacher dragging me to the principals office by my ear in grade 1 or 2. (Which was around ’86-87) She heard me swear at another student who wouldn’t leave me alone…which was funny because my dad was a pastor- so I rarely swore at that age but everyone else was doing it and the one time I did.. I got busted…This was really the last year she was allowed to ‘get away’ with this before things started getting stricter in the schools. I remember she also had a fondness with slapping rulers on the back of your hand… I think my parents complained because she had treated me like that. I know I raised a stink that she hurt me.
    I was quite a trouble maker when I was younger… I loved taking on authority… was always too smart for my own good though it served me well as I aged. Besides the teacher who liked to drag you by your ear… I was mainly given detentions and time outs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 19, 2018 / 6:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Irene! You speaking up (and me) surely did help in ending violent practices at schools. Sometimes it takes a while to change people’s mind frames, but it does happen. The most dangerous thing in many various ways is not speak up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alanna March 20, 2018 / 1:31 am

    From a different perspective (retired middle school teacher) I have sent kids out to the hallway most of the time as a timeout for myself! With 30 or more 6th graders of varying levels and needs I had at times felt my patience run thin. Rather than lose my cool I would send students to another class or outside the hall to regroup and regain my composure. (It’s a better alternative than saying something unkind ) Then I would go out and talk to the student to try to mend the situation. It’s a tough job but does not entitle one to violence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 20, 2018 / 12:47 pm

      That makes so much sense! Thanks for sharing that. I never looked at it from that perspective.


  4. Jane Gealy March 20, 2018 / 11:27 am

    Things were the same in the 70’s and 80’s in the UK. Thankfully corporal punishment ended a couple of decades ago, but I sure had some psycho teachers at my school, but hey, we all survived!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 20, 2018 / 12:50 pm

      We did, though I know there were surely some isolated cases in the past where it did a lot more harm than good.

      I appreciate that you shared about the UK. I do wonder about the role of corporal punishment in other countries, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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