14 March 2010

The Joke That Went Too Far

Usually I try to see the teacher's perspective on name-calling and bullying in the classroom. I know of several oversensitive kids and their parents who really can't get a joke. Sometimes, parents also forget to keep in mind that there is definitely a "cultural" side to the way in which one person jokes with another.

Here, silly people are called Dorcas Brains, as in "you're being a dork" in a friendly, almost Biblical, way. And I know folks who call their children sh*theads and that sort of thing, and they don't mean anything bad toward the little tots. It's not something I'd do, but the kids are used to it and it isn't meant to be demeaning. The tone is teasing, not humiliating.

But now, take that little word to school with you, and it has a whole new meaning to people outside that culture. A teacher calling a kid a sh*thead would definitely be out of line.

Same thing with "loser."

I was kinda thinking before I clicked over to this story that "loser" would be ok to a point. As in,"Don't be a loser! Study for your test." I think we ought to give the benefit of the doubt whenever reasonably possible. (I know I'd appreciate it if I had to teach so many students! One comment taken out of context could ruin a career!) When I was in high school, a beloved social studies teacher would hand out a "Golden Shovel Award" (really just a spraypainted plastic shovel) for the essay with the most BS that year.

The winning essay was read with much giggling from the whole class. Probably today, the teacher wouldn't be able to get away with that due to privacy concerns, but back then, the recipient of the award and the entire class thought it was pretty funny.

This story isn't. It sounds a bit beyond friendly teasing... and it makes me wonder how much other stuff is going on that is NOT written down.


  1. I always think you have to say words of encouragement not of disparagement ~ especially when you are something like a teacher. Gets you further; gets the kids further. Just my think. I wouldn't have found this funny as a kid & kids don't need their teachers to relate to them. They need them to be their teachers.

  2. When I look at the note, it said, "-20% for being a loser." I don't see anything constructive in that. Yes, the golden shovel had a point to it. In some circles, that skill would be an asset.

    I do understand that teaching is very frustrating in some places. I know someone who works at a charter school (i.e., dumping ground for kids who don't want to learn) and she would be rich if she earned a nickel for every time she heard MF. The No Child Left Untested and unreasonable standards like requiring Kindergarteners to write three sentences is ridiculous. The parents whose children are angels and never do anything wrong makes life miserable.

    But, still. What that teacher did is ridiculous!

    I think the solution is making school relevant again. Putting the idea of personhood back into teaching. Children have their own individual development and are not machines that will learn at the rate that Big Brother deems as correct. Teachers can focus on meaning and connections, not feeding facts into their students.

  3. I had a school teacher in middle school tell me.. I would a f##### failure when I grew up. All because she thought I was talking in class. She was a favorite teacher up to that point. Her words scared me. It took a long time to get over it. I never told my parents. She is still teaching today. Teachers need to realize the power of their words.


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