Blaine wouldn’t behave, no matter what I did. He was the rudest, most out of control student I ever had. His mother was no help, he was even ruder to her. The parent had no control, and I felt I spent my time simply containing him. I thought to myself, “I don’t believe in swatting kids, but this guy won’t respect anything else.”
Blaine came back this next year, this time in his father’s custody. The formerly rail thin boy put on ten pounds and was remarkably calm. He quickly became, to our surprise and his, an A and B student. Blaine did not need swatting, he needed to know someone cared.
It is tempting to use corporal punishment for students. However, we have a much better understanding of how the brain works since the days of paddling in the principal’s office. The reason to paddle students is to generate fear. Fear of failure in school. Fear of misbehaving. Fear of angering adults. We don’t want students to fail at school, misbehave, or anger adults, but there are other ways to achieve those goals through a good discipline plan and engaging students in their schoolwork.
What does not work is fear. Fear of failure is not the same as succeeding and excelling in school. For the last ten years, student achievement is the goal for all schools. Fear, as an emotion, is one of the most devastating on the goal of student achievement. According to a discipline plan called Conscious Discipline, it all comes down to how the brain works.
The upper portion of the brain consists of two large sections, the cerebrum and the cerebellum. The cerebrum, the forward part of the brain, is where learning happens. The cerebellum, where memories are stored is also the area that controls emotions. The cerebellum is what engages is the child feels he or she is in danger, creating a “flight or fight” state. This danger can of being bullied, teased, intimidation, physical threat from another student, or other sources. Naturally, fear of being physically harmed by the school itself constitutes fear.
Being in a state of fear may get a student to sit still for a change, or not talk back to her teacher, or turn his homework in. Yet this fear will not accomplish what needs to happen, which is for the student to learn. A student afraid for their well being, simply will not learn. There are other methods that are highly effective at producing well behaved students, Conscious Discipline is one of them, and will help attain that productive mental state in which children can learn.
There are many ethical, cultural, and legal reasons not to spank a student. With the goal of student achievement looming large for school in the nation, there need be only one. Spanking will not create a student who will excel at school, because fear cannot be used to make a child learn. It can only be used to make a child obey, and that is no longer good enough in America’s schools.