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Sunday Confessions: Corporal Punishment in the Classroom

April 24, 2011

I used to teach kindergarten. It was at a private, Christian school that used the Abeka program (which I detested except for reading).

The year I taught half my students had either really difficult home lives, some type of learning disability, extreme giftedness, or all of the above. I was overwhelmed at times.

I’ll never forget any of them, but one little boy in particular will always be in my heart. He was a very difficult, yet very sweet child. He was highly gifted and behaved like a little adult. In many ways he had a hard time making friends because he didn’t want to be silly, pretend, and wasn’t able to relate to other people’s feelings very well. In class he was disruptive, loud, often rude, and stubborn.,He hit other children, broke things, talked back, tore up his papers, threw temper tantrums. My supervisor and I tried talking, reasoning, making him run laps, taking away privileges, letting him be in charge for short amounts of time, rewards, tangible feedback like a sticker – nothing. Everything I tried was short term.

During the four parent/teacher conference in as many months, his parents seemed to be at a loss for what to do with him. We were too. I felt he could accelerate in life if he could learn some type of self control. This seemed to be a joint feeling with his parents and my supervisor as well. All of us met to talk about a plan we could come up with in regards to discipline, learning styles, and basic classroom skills.

My supervisor told his parents, “We have tried everything with your son to get him to be respectful and behave. I’d like to know what you do at home so we can work on a similar plan here.We are about to put him on a 3 strikes plan.”

They shrugged. “Spanking,” his dad said.

We laughed a little and my supervisor said, “Well, we can’t do that here so let’s come up with something else.”

The dad looked at us pointedly. “I wish you could spank him. Actually, could you? What if I signed a note saying you had permission too?”

Floored, I stared at him. In my head I was imagining myself saying to a child that wasn’t mine, “Ok, I’m sorry you didn’t do your handwriting but that means two spankings so let my find my paddle…”

No please.

I understood the desperation of the parents to get him to behave. They had three little ones besides him and both worked, and he was simply not an easy child by any means. I knew also they had dealt with this the past 2 years at his preschool. But there was no way I was ever going to spank some kid. Honestly, if it came down to it I don’t know that they would have really let us. I think they were just grasping for anything.

Thankfully, my supervisor assured them that we would not be spanking him, even as a private school with lots of leeway that wasn’t going to fly anywhere.

We never came up with a plan. I did my best to just give him lots of love and attention and really try to understand his frustrations. I felt at the end of the year both exhaustion and a hope that maybe I’d made a little difference.

Here’s my confession though – there were times when he was so naughty, ride and spiteful that I would think, “You know, maybe we should have kept that option on the table. Even just as a threat…”



  • Jen

    April 26, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Wow. I could never imagine giving someone else permission to spank my kids. I have wanted to spank other children, though. I am not gonna lie. Some parents just don’t understand the concept of discipline.

  • kim

    April 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I cannot imagine giving somebody else permission to spank my child — although I HAVE wanted to spank other people’s children! 🙂 However, we did stop spanking our kids about a year ago — it just doesn’t work w/ our kids. (totally worked for me when I was a kid) And hey! How did I fall down the ranks on the commenter log??

  • Teresa

    April 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

    I just wrote a long response comment, totally digressed, so I deleted it and started over. Anyway, I am not against spanking as a punishment for the stubborn or defiant child (my own 4 yo thinks “time out” is fun and doesn’t care if I take away tv, etc) but if someone other than me or dh did it, I’d be pissed! Thanks for this confession though, because I have wanted to spank other people’s kids too, LOL!

  • Noelle S.

    April 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I went to an A.C.E. school and my parents had to sign a waiver stating I was NOT allowed to be spanked. The principal was very much into corporal punishment. WHAT THE HECK!! My parents didn’t believe in spanking, thankfully.

  • Dana K

    April 24, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I went to school when corporal punishment was still allowed. Eventually, your parents had to “give permission” to allow you to be spanked, until it was finally banned by the time I was in high school.

    It’s sad to think that the parents were pushed so far that they were willing to give permission for someone else to spank their child.

    Although, in light of this confession…I have wanted to spank a couple of kids myself. Thankfully, not my own so the temptation was short-lived. 😉

  • Kat

    April 24, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I have huge respect for all teachers. I can’t imagine trying to manage a classroom full of children each with their own peronality, behaviour issues and learning levels. I hope for that boy’s sake that you were able to make a difference and that his next teacher cared as much as you did.

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