Saw this story in Newsweek magazine (well, the online version) called The Principal and The Paddle. Being that my school is a “struggling school” and that I LOVE to bring reading ripped right from current headlines into class, I let ‘er rip.
And goodness did it. I mean a virtual tidal wave of energy and enthusiasm. Class was simply roaring — all because of a simple question.
Should we paddle students in the Lynwood Unified School District?
Actually, that wasn’t how I started. To begin, I framed the lesson by having students write a well-executed paragraph citing three ways our Vice Principal could improve student discipline on campus. (This throws back to the pot smoking in the halls from last Friday before I left for the weekend per my previous blog post.)
Not a darn one of them suggested “paddling”. And when I tossed this idea into the mix, all of them were 100% against it. Literally, ALL of them. This made it really fun for me because I got to play devil’s advocate during the ensuing discussion — not that I am for physical discipline in our schools but it’s quite a kick to wear the black hat and defend a POV simply for the sake of stoking some student fires.
Then we read the aforementioned article.
Next we did a re-read whereby I asked my students to take copious notes, underlining, finding evidence, and so on. I told them that no one would get to talk unless they could include a textual citation from the Newsweek piece to support the point they were about to make during our forthcoming “debate”. Re-reading is something it feels like my kids are rarely asked to do — yet how much better is their comprehension improved by taking a second pass? When you are not the world’s greatest reader, small strategies like this often make HUGE dents.
Suddenly, after the re-read and the note-taking, I had a class full of damn lawyers bombing me (and one another) with well-supported evidence. Whoa! Suddenly, the level of argumentative competition in the room had changed.
Then we shifted gears whereby I slightly altered the question to:
Should we paddle elementary school students in the Lynwood Unified School District?
Time to write a new paragraph citing three reasons for their belief, pro or con. (Note: This is why writing is so darn valuable. The old question of, “How do I know what I really think until I see what I have to say?” is never more true. Kids think they know how they feel but it’s often muddled and fuzzy. Writing brings clarity and prepares them to be thoughtful participants in a class debate… instead of mere, “toss some stuff off of the top of my head and shout it really loud when I want to add emphasis” contributors. It’s a world of difference.)
BLAM! The fireworks began. Immediately, I went from the only one arguing for paddling to merely facilitating and moderating a heated debate. Opinions were flying on both sides of the aisle and lots of intelligent support was being evidenced from all angles. It was great!
At the end of class we took a vote. The decision:
LET’S PADDLE THEIR BUTTS!
(Tomorrow’s lesson: an exploration of mankind’s hypocritical nature revolving around the quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” LOL!)