Monday, March 24, 2014

Different Words, Different Perspective

            The teachers at Tunbridge have a particular way to control their students that is different from when I was in elementary school.  The teacher of the class that I served last semester did not use this particular method too often, so I’m still trying to understand what exactly happens when it comes to controlling and disciplining students in my new class this semester.  To quiet the students and to get their attention, the teachers at Tunbridge use harmonicas that they wear on lanyards around their necks and play a few notes, signaling to the students that they should stop talking and pay attention to them.  The teachers say that a student gets a “spleen” when he or she is being too disruptive in class, which I assume are simply warnings.  After a certain number of spleens, the disruptive student is sent to sit in “pax place,” which is essentially what I know as “time out.”  Pax place is a specific chair in the classroom where the student sits until the teacher says that he or she can rejoin the class.  Students are also sent to pax place if they are upset and need a couple of minutes to cool down and collect themselves.
            The teachers and classes that I volunteered with this semester and last semester are drastically different.  Last semester, I volunteered with a small special education class.  While the teacher sometimes used the harmonica to get the students’ attention, she never used the word “spleen” as a warning and talked in a stern voice with the students if they were acting up too much.  Students occasionally sat in pax place, but only when they were frustrated with their schoolwork and needed to take a break.  This semester, I volunteer with the kindergarten art class.  This teacher uses the harmonica much more frequently, though she uses a softer tone of her voice with the students since all of them pretty young.  Students do receive “spleens” and are sometimes sent to pax place, though because they are being disruptive to the class or not behaving properly.  Students are usually sent to pax place at the beginning of class when the teacher is trying to explain the day’s art project to the class.  As kindergarteners who have only had one class before this one, many of the kids are full of energy and cannot keep quiet.  Students also tend to receive spleens at the end of class when they are not quiet when they line up to leave.  While this form of discipline doesn’t cause long-term physical, mental, or emotional scarring, the kindergarteners do get quite upset when they first receive a spleen or are sent to pax place.  I can’t help but empathize with the students because art class was my favorite class when I was in elementary school and I was always eager and excited for every new art project as well.
            Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has been banned due to its explicitly violent content.  At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist and narrator, Celie, is physically and sexually abused by her stepfather.  Celie is soon married to Mr. ____, whose children are out of Celie’s control.  Later on, Sofia refuses to allow her husband, Harpo, one of Mr. ____’s children, to control her, which surprises Celie, who is used to women submitting to men.  Sofia actually fights back when Harpo tries to beat her by Celie’s suggestion, which Celie instantly regrets and apologizes.  Celie’s experiences with physical violence when she was younger conditioned her to view physical violence as acceptable as an adult.  As many of us were told when we were young and easily influenced, “violence is never the answer.”  While the teachers at Tunbridge have an unconventional way of disciplining their students, the avoidance of words that are traditionally associated with being bad, such as “I’m warning you” and “time out,” I believe that students accept and understand their punishment better and grow from their mistakes.

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