How Has Discipline Changed Over The Years – There was a day 40 years ago when teachers hung paddles on the classroom wall and used them on students who didn’t heed their warnings.
Back then, almost all parents supported the teachers and often gave their child little more than a spanking when they got home. The parents respected the teachers, and the students listened.
How Has Discipline Changed Over The Years
Three weeks ago, the Marion County School Board suspended rowing from its disciplinary budget in a move that many educators, parents and education experts applauded. Corporal punishment is less effective than methods that do not rely on violence and intimidation.
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They note that since the 1960s, there have been many other instructional tools available to educators to address a variety of student misbehavior, including in-school suspension, school desegregation, and principals.
But critics of the School Board’s decision to ban rowing say public school teachers face more behavior problems than ever before, and their ability to cope has diminished over time.
However, proponents and opponents of corporal punishment agree on one thing: Many parents no longer have the opportunity to educate their children.
According to them, parents are busy with work, pressured by world events, pressured by the complexity of today’s education system, or just don’t care.
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As a result, these parents are less connected to their schools and less willing than previous generations to be involved in their children’s education.
Surprisingly, school district administrators report that the percentage of kids in trouble today is about the same as it was a decade ago. What has changed are the ways in which student misconduct is dealt with.
Many educators point to parents who, they say, are less involved in their children’s education and less able to help teachers prevent their children from being violent.
Without the help of these parents, teachers are forced to rely on their own disciplinary tools. Some say the tools aren’t right for the job.
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Carol Ely, 63, principal of Shady Hill Elementary School, who will retire in June, said when she first started teaching in Gainesville in 1968, she would coach her own students before in the presence of a witness.
At that time there was no dean of education. Classes are at least 30 students. And even though the classes are big, they have control. They were in charge because most parents respected and supported them. When they called home about a learning problem, the parents got ready.
“Parents supported us at the time,” Ely said. Almost all parents attended open houses and event nights, dressed appropriately for the occasion.
Ely said times were different in the 1960s. Most children had two parents at home. He said in the 1970s everything changed. Most of the divorces resulted in single parent families.
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Marcy Weidner, 64, a retired 34-year veteran of Shady Hill, began teaching in 1969 at a private school in an affluent Chicago neighborhood.
When he came to Marion County in the 1990s, he found a different culture. Parents and their children do not respect teachers and some parents often neglect their children’s education, he said.
This is different, he said. They are called “helicopter” parents because they are constantly hovering over their children. Whenever they are in a volunteer class, they involve children in many activities and make all the decisions for them.
She believes that students should have opportunities outside to spend time with friends, away from the overwhelming distractions that technology and those helicopter parents provide.
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Donna Titterington – a mother of four children in elementary, middle and high school, as well as college – agrees that a lack of parental involvement is the cause of many problems.
“Parents don’t have high expectations for their children,” he said. For example, parents complain that their children’s work is too difficult for them.
Titterington does not believe in corporal punishment, but says it is important for parents to understand their children.
Another parent, Lauren DeIorio — president of the Parent/Teacher Association and member of the Student Advisory Council at Shady Hill Elementary School — also noticed the change. “I feel bad for the teachers,” DeIorio said. “It seems that [some parents believe] teachers are there to watch.”
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Unlike Titterington, DeIorio was raised in an all-girls Catholic school in Louisville, Ky., and believed that corporal punishment, even the threat of it, was necessary. It’s a way to instill the importance of respecting their peers, he said.
According to John Scanzoni, a professor at the University of Florida and an expert in sociology, parents should not bear all the blame for educational issues.
He also criticizes schools for not keeping up with the constantly changing trends in society, especially technology.
For the most part, today’s classrooms are like the classrooms of the 1960s: a teacher speaks in front of the class, and the students sit and listen. It’s an old method to teach a generation of kids who are used to getting information electronically, he said.
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According to Scanzoni, schools that are increasingly computerized by using tablets and laptops have fewer learning problems than schools that do not.
At Blessed Trinity School, a Catholic school on South 17th Street, an anonymous donor gave $60,000 for interactive whiteboards that the principal said reduced student misbehavior.
During the 2008-09 school year, Principal Jason Halstead handled 100 student citations for fighting, disrespecting teachers and using inappropriate language.
Only 10 children have been referred to her office with referrals since the whiteboards were installed last summer, a ninety percent drop in academic issues.
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According to Halstead, the children are now engaged in the classroom, and they are not distracted because they are not bored.
As for parent involvement, Scanzoni said the move away from local schools and the increasing difficulty of testing has disconnected many parents from the curriculum. Many, he says, do not know how to help at home.
Scanzoni said with the mixing of social and ethnic classes, sending children from one neighborhood to another, the school-neighborhood structure collapses and parents leave.
Standardized testing forced parents to help students. They may know their child needs help raising their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, but they don’t know what they can do at home to help.
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“It’s harder for them to know what their [administrative] school wants,” he said of the state’s insistence on standardized tests.
He said standardized testing is one of the biggest problems when it comes to parent involvement. He believes the government should step back from that position and focus on technology.
Shady Hill Principal Ely agrees that today’s emphasis on standardized testing is problematic, but there are other reasons. Because of the high stakes on these tests—school grades, government funding—teachers are in trouble, and they are assigned to students. Adolescent students often have similar behavioral problems.
While changing times, changing parent attitudes, and changing academic standards all contribute to student misbehavior, educators are finding creative ways to stay positive in their classrooms in order to teach well.
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Kathy Richardson, the executive director of student services for Marion County, who retired last Friday, said the top priority is keeping troubled students in school.
In the 2005-06 school year, 37 percent of all students in the school district were suspended for at least one day during the year. That number dropped to 34 percent in 2006-07.
Richardson said because of the high number of suspensions, the School District decided to take a new approach by adding behavioral intervention programs.
These programs teach students social skills, respect and the consequences of their actions. Student assistance groups evaluate students and help them get on track.
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As a result, the number of suspensions is about two-thirds. In 2007-08, 15 percent of the student population was suspended. Only 13 percent were suspended in 2008-09. In the first half of 2009-10, only 5.5 percent were suspended.
These groups, which include social workers, psychologists, counselors and other professionals, investigate the child’s issues, from education to learning, and then try to get the child on track before he is expelled.
If a child can’t read, they get reading help, Richardson said. If a child struggles with math, he or she gets math help. If their behavior is problematic, they get behavioral help.
“Many students lack the social skills they need to be successful in school,” Richardson said.
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One such program, called the Behavior Education Program, or Chiefs Choices, at Osceola Middle School, is dedicated to students who lack adequate social skills.
Joy Baxley, Osceola’s assistant principal for learning, said when the idea was first floated, academic deans and assistant principals opposed it because they felt high school students needed to know behavior.
But soon they changed their minds. The program helps students lead and teaches them how to work well with others, including teachers.
They learn manners, respect and talk to teachers when they believe there is a problem with the code, e.g.
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“It’s a different world,” Baxley said. “We want to give the child the skills that are missing due to the damage
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