Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Give me 20 ...

I've been volunteerng as a reading mentor for about six weeks now. The school I volunteer at is an experimental school that takes underprivileged kids from the worst performing school districts in the metropolitan area and gives them a full scholarship for all three middle school years and then the school places these students in various prominent private and public high schools upon graduation. I usually work one-on-one with students, reading with them. But yesterday, I was asked to work in the classroom with them during their study hall. One of their teachers was present and monitored the classroom while I went around and helped students with vocabulary and math. Apparently, a group of the 7th grade boys are little hell raisers. They really aren't so bad, but just hyper and goofy. They think they are getting away with murder when they commit their little "crimes." A few times during the first part of study hall, the teacher would tell one of the boys to go out in the hall for 20. I thought it was some kind of timeout for being unruly. But then I realized that he was making them do push-ups!! I asked one of the students if they really had to do push-ups and he said, "yes...Watch, I'll show you." And he got up from his seat abruptly and started clowning around with one of the other boys and sure enough, he had to drop and do 20 push-ups!!

Does this seem weird to anyone else? I mean, these boys laugh it off and it doesn't seem to deter them from goofing off whatsoever. More than anything, it seems like a macho performance. And what makes it even more strange is that the teacher of the class is this small little priest who seems to realize that he is indulging the kids somewhat. I mean, I can understand if he wants to burn some of the kids' energy off when they get hyper and misbehave but this push-up thing seems quite arbitrary to even that. What are 20 push-ups to a 7th grade boy? Maybe 20 laps or running 20 lines like I remember having to do in volleyball practice when Sandi Parker would piss our coach off and we'd all get punished. Believe me, running lines repeatedly is brutal. But not one of these boys broke a sweat or pretended to be tired. Maybe if they were military push-ups or something regimented but they are not. The boys get away with these herky jerky up and down movements and that's that.

And believe me, I see the challenges teacher face. I am lucky because I stroll in and help the kids, they want to befriend me because I am fresh and interested in them and not burned out or jaded. It takes a special person to be a teacher and I really admire that. I can see how teachers burn out and give up. The kids that are rowdy get all the attention and the focused kids become neglected as a result. I realized I was spending a lot of time trying to get the rowdy kids to focus on their work, trying to generate interest in what they were doing. So, I started going around to the quiet and focused kids and asked them what they were reading or interested in. And really, even these rowdy kids are just hyper but not violent or abusive. They can't be at this school. But, I see how 30+ hours a week with any kids could be exhausting.

Anyway, I digress. Really though... push-ups? Does anyone else see some absurdity in this form of discipline/punishment or am I missing something here?

7 comments:

Kim/Thomas said...

I have never heard of that...i would have to think there could be more effective ways for them to be punished...like writing on the board 100 times ;) seriously that is kinda weird..push ups?

Richard said...

Oops! Missed this post. You typically only do one per day.

Yeah, I find it kind of odd. I agree with you, it is kind of a macho pride show off thing.

On the other hand, there is a fine balance between letting them be themselves, discipling them, and humiliating the.

I don't understand their motivation well enough to recommend a suitable disciplining.

b said...

kim...yeah, no kiddig, huh? i am sure it is a distraction but it just seems to manifest this "macho show off thing" as richard so aptly phrases it in his comment. would you honestly find that odd if your sons came home and told you they had to do that? i mean, it's not horrifying, just odd to me.


richard...i know, 2 posts in a day! you know me...i like to mess with your sanity every now and then. :) you know, i think the boys were just being silly...giggling and making faces at each other and getting up from their desks to get a kleenex and making faces to one another. i can't describe it/dissect it better than that. they were all very respectful toward me and thanked me every time i helped them with a question. but yeah, it defintely seemed almost a privilege to do the push-ups...to show off or to feel (for lack of a better phrase) bad ass.

Randal Graves said...

I've never heard of that outside of involvement in a sport. Screw up, do push ups or laps or what have you. But in a classroom setting? Quite odd. I'm not sure what to make of it myself. I'm certainly not against trying something different than writing "I will not laugh in class" 100 times on the board, but this is just strange, and I can't seem them doing it with troublemaking girls, for example.

mattbg said...

It's more of a punishment than Catholic confession :)

b said...

randal...exactly. with sports, yeah, that makes more sense. but in study hall? haha. yeah, there has to be something better than writing on the board and doing push-ups!!

matt...haha. i don't know. the guilt that comes with confession is brutal. a bunch of push-ups at least builds muscular strength, whereas confession seems to tear a person down! :)

carra said...

Physical punishment however funny it may be, is inappropriate in my opinion. I find the whole thing ridiculous I can't believe it is legal... Sorry.