Motivating Ten Year Old Kids by Embarassment

I have been teaching at the post secondary level since 1974 which means I am an old codger. Generally speaking most of my students expect me to be grumpy, strict and generally a hard ass about every thing they do, and maybe I am. I don’t think I am, but who knows, I don’t take classes from me and I usually know the answers to the questions I ask students.

One thing I have never done, however, is embarrass a student by sharing their lack of achievement with other members of their class much less with others outside the classroom. First of all, it is illegal and a violation of the students right to privacy. Their progress, or lack thereof, is between the student, myself, and need to know administrators at the university where I was teaching at the time.

Where K -12 students are concerned I believe the parents are thrown into that mix. That is why I was a bit surprised when I read a news story out of Delco, Idaho about Summers Larsen, a fourth grade teacher who allowed classmates to use markers to mark up the faces of 6 of their members who didn’t meet their reading goals.

According to the Associated Press story Ms Larsen let the class choose their incentives to reach their goals and they chose punishment with the alternatives being either to stay in during recess or having their faces marked up. Three chose to stay in during recess while the other six chose the face marking. Here again it brings up the question, should this teacher have been allowed to isolate, or make stand out, the students who did not achieve their reading goal. This is part of their academic progress which falls under their right to privacy.

I am not one of those who believe in entitlement for young people who are not meeting their obligations in school. If they are not doing satisfactory work, fail them, but do not hold them out for embarrassment and ridicule to other students. The markers used on these students did not wash off easily and in some cases would not wash off before the next day of school. The “marked” students had to ride their school bus home marked up and were ridiculed by students not in the class or their grade. It goes well beyond any idea of motivating students to achieve. It fails to account for the fact that some students are slow learners and public embarrassment will only cause them to fall further behind. A major part of the learning process is a child gaining confidence in what they are doing which will stimulate enjoyment of learning.

Mad Mike’s doesn’t have an award for the worst person in America for today, but if we did I would surely nominate Ms Summers Larsen to receive it. Also, just to give her an idea of how these children might feel I would like to sentence her to having to sit through one of my graduate seminars for one day. If she fails to meet my expectations I get to mark her up with a permanent marker anywhere I choose and in anyway I choose and parade her around Delco, Idaho.

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Posted by on November 17, 2012. Filed under Commentary,COMMENTARY/OPINION,Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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9 Responses to Motivating Ten Year Old Kids by Embarassment

  1. James Smith

    November 17, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Why do I suspect that Ms Summers will not accept your offer? People that do things that abysmally stupid never think it should apply to them. Or maybe I should have truncated that sentence after “think?”

    • Bill Formby

      November 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

      James, I did not intend to sound as insensitive as Ms. Larsen was toward these children but it really bothers me when a teacher, or others in authority seem to have no concern for those in their charge. That worked fine at Parris Island because no one did anything right and the D.I.’s knew how to follow it up with praise at the proper time, but kids are an exception.

      • James Smith

        November 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

        I think you probably know about the teaching technique of positive reinforcement as compared to operant conditioning. People often do not learn quite as fast that way, but they do retain their knowledge better.

        I was taught this when training with the Chuck Norris United Fighting Arts Federation. Martial arts had traditionally been taught much like Parris Island. The UFAF used positive reinforcement in that any improvement, no matter how slight, was praised and incorrect technique was ignored. I had done this previously, but in an unplanned, rather haphazard manner. After The difference and reasoning behind it was demonstrated to me, I applied it wholeheartedly to my own students. The difference in their skills and, especially enthusiasm, was marked and immediate.

        I suspect this woman has never heard of either method.

  2. Carol Maietta views

    November 17, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Bill, this teacher should be suspended, and I hope she was. As far as your suggestion of how you might mark up Ms Summers and parade her around, based on what she did to those kids, I’ll bet she’d enjoy that JUST A BIT TOO MUCH…..

    • Bill Formby

      November 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Carol! Where is your mind? 🙂 I was think a bit more along the lines of ripping her theories and work to shreds verbally in class. But, now that that you mention it, it would depend upon how well she marked up.:):)

  3. Michael John Scott

    November 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Curiously she has quite a bit of support among parents. I found that surprising.

    • James Smith

      November 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      So do I. Usually parents are the first to complain, “My kid is perfect. It’s all your fault. Not mine for failing to take an interest in their education or motivate them.”

    • Bill Formby

      November 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      I didn’t find much support from the parents of the kids who were marked up though Mike. Even if there were, I still question the process. As James pointed out the use of positive reinforcement has been proven far superior to negative reinforcement. There is also an issue of learning styles and whether that played a role in the kids with slow reading. As I stated in an earlier post education today is more focused on standardized scores than they are on actual learning.