Once upon a classroom after having called an emergency meeting of my class…we sat on the floor together and began to sort out why there had been such an increase in violent behavior among the children. People who usually could work out differences and problem solve issues peaceably with some support had been resorting to name calling, pushing, shoving, object throwing and out and out slug fests. The teaching team was exhausted from stopping fights and supporting conflict resolution in our peace area-and besides that the peace area was overcrowded much of the time, and some people were too upset even to think or even begin a dialogue to resolve anything. It was hard.
I remember telling the kids that we teachers had lost patience and were now feeling frustrated and angry about all the fighting, that we had been working hard to help, and that we were at a loss as to what to do next. We were hoping that kids could help with some ideas on how we could sort all of this out.
Ideas and thoughts began to flow.
The group came to general consensus that all the fighting was making them feel unsafe at school. One girl offered that maybe people were excited about Halloween. Another thought maybe people were feeling sad and they missed their Moms. A conversation ensued about what costumes people would be wearing that night, what costumes parents had nixed, and that trick or treating can be kind of scary sometimes. One boy said that maybe the teachers should give everyone a time out. Another said we should punish them. Another said we should spank the bad kids.
I let kids know firmly that punishing, time outs and/or spanking was never an option teachers would use in our class. They wanted to know why. I told them that all of those things seemed like mad things to do –and that I felt they were not only put downs to people, but that spanking was definitely violence. No one disagreed with me as heads nodded in agreement. I explained that problems never get solved this way-even though sometimes the problems might stop for a while. I explained the expectations teachers had of the class….that it is our job as people and learners to do the much harder work of listening, understanding, and coming up with ideas and solutions…so that we could move on to solve new and different problems together and not the same one over and over again. Cause that would be boring. We laughed together a little..but then one thoughtful faced boy asked why we had to learn these things and their Moms and Dads didn’t.
And so the conversation continued. There was talk of having been spanked for common childhood crimes like not listening, or lying..or for hitting a sibling. There was talk of how their parents said they wouldn’t spank but sometimes they got so mad that they did it anyway. Some talked of having heard stories of others getting swatted by a baby sitter, a grandparent or a nanny.
Most all said they had never ever been spanked but that just knowing that it happens to kids sometimes meant that it could happen to them too. It could. So maybe teachers will spank you-or somebody else’s mom or dad will…you never can know for sure.
Even though most of the kids reported they had never been spanked, just knowing that it is an aspect of the culture and societal construct they live in makes them afraid.
We as a group came to the conclusion that Halloween was evoking feelings of danger and fear, and fear of spanking was among them.
You never can know for sure if it will happen…..
Here’s a brief article of introduction to socio cognitive learning and its potential impact on overall learning-that begins with sense of place and self concept