39 answers

Teacher Being Too Strict or Taking Action?

I apologize it may be long and appreciate if you make it through the whole thing as I'm trying to tell a couple sides to the story.

My daughter started 2nd grade this year. Everything seemed to be going very well and I really got a good feel about her new teacher. However, a parent friend whose daughter is in the same class called me last night asking about a "sort of" incident with the teacher. This is what I was told according to my friend:

Her daughter was afraid to go back to school and wants to switch teachers. Apparently the other day the teacher got upset with another child in the classroom and grabbed his pencil and broke it in front of the whole class. In another incident he took a childs paper and ripped it in half and threw it in the trash. He's also had to move some kids around. The child and other children that this is happening to are children that I have known in the past from last year to misbehave greatly. (Keep in mind I personally never witnessed it but heard from other moms and another dad) Well her daughter is just distraught according to my friend. She doesn't want to go back to school or at least doesn't want this teacher. The daughter also said its because she feels so bad for these other students not because she got in trouble. My friend is upset and even wrote the teacher an email, she is worried about the well being of her child liking school. She feels this teacher is too drastic. She finds breaking a pencil as being over the top. She feels that discipline can be instituted in other ways.

Now, I asked my daughter about the incidents and she explained it as "My teacher does not like when you play with your pencils or talk when he is talking" She did recall the teacher breaking a pencil but almost smiled when she said it. She also on her own will said right after that "She (meaning my daughter) doesn't like having the kids that are bad in her class" She did not seem affected at all! Almost happy that the teacher was taking action on a child acting up. I then asked if she had gotten in trouble at all. (My daughter is a huge rules follower while she isn't perfect I have never had discipline problems in school yet I like to stay on top of her) She then admitted she did get a warning because the whole class was reciting site words together and she was not. He warned her that she needed to recite or I'm guessing whatever discipline he has set in motion would take place. (He moves their cards into some slot) That was that though, and she did as told and did not get in trouble any further. She again, although a little upset that she had to recite the words was not mad at her teacher at all. She has came home from school every day happy.

I know how I feel about this and I'm sure you may have picked up how I feel. I won't share anymore about what I feel as I'm not looking for people to agree with how I feel. But just to gain opinions on how you feel about what this teacher did, my friend feels he "crossed a line" by breaking the pencil and tearing up the paper?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

He is a male teacher. Highly recommended by other parents of older children at the school. In fact after finding out in the beginning of the year the amount of students that actually requested him really made me feel he must be doing something right. He's been teaching for 20 years so I put him in his 40's.

I did see her daughter go off happily to school today. (For what its worth)

Oh and to be clear: I will not be talking to the teacher or anyone else in the school in regard to this situation because of this as my daughter seems to be fine.

And for the record: My daughter lost a lot of recesses that she complained about last year because of one of these kids.

Very interesting seeing both sides. I will definitely keep an eye/ear on my daughter and see how it goes.

Featured Answers

I've had teachers tear up papers in front of the class before. It was usually because the child was being extremely disruptive or not following rules etc, and it demonstrated that they just got a 0 on that assignment. I have no problem with that. While I think the pencil breaking was a little extreme - I don't think it was over the top.

5 moms found this helpful

I so admire teachers of kids this age. The patience it must require!!! My gut reaction is that he really does want to work with kids of this age, but maybe he's new and has gotten overwhelmed. For so many, it takes a few years of experience or a really good mentor to really help them respond in the best way.

I think it is way too easy for must of us to say he should have done x or he could have done y. It's one thing to say that when you're not in the middle of the situation, and it's so easy to say that when you have 2 or 3 kids rather than 25!

If this is something that really concerns you, could you approach the principal (and I don't usually suggest beginning there) with - we really like this teacher, we want to see him succeed, we really don't want to "get him in trouble," is there a more seasoned teacher than can mentor him and give him some tips.

I participated in a year long mentoring program for a different occupation. I met once a month with my mentor and just talked about the job - things that were good, things that challenged me, whatever. That was a HUGE help to me. I think it really helped me to looked at some aspects of my job and really grow in my job and as a person.

I hate to see a potentially good teacher not get the mentoring and support that could really make a big difference.

Good luck, whatever you decide!

5 moms found this helpful

I have had a teacher do this when I was in school. When it was done, breaking the pencil, it was done in a direct but not mean spirited way. He saw the kid playing with the pencil, walked up while still talking/teaching, took the pencil and broke it half. Handed it back to the student. Later there was someone passing notes, he walked up without missing a beat and ripped the letter in half and handed it back.

So I guess for me, it all comes down to how it happened, and what was said around it.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers

My take on this is that your daughter's friend is learning how to be a drama queen from her mother. Your friend took one story that her 7-year-old told her and ran with it. She has NO idea what happened in that classroom. She only heard a one-sided story from her 7-year-old, which could be any shade of true, and decided to call you to gossip about it and spread things she didn't even know to be true, and then to send the teacher an email sort of 'scolding' him for something she's not even sure how or why it happened.

Your daughter seemed to have a less dramatic perspective.

I think the only issue is your friend's obvious tendancy to overreact, and the fact that she's passing it on to her daughter.

11 moms found this helpful

There are two things I see here, one mom with what appears to be an overly sensitive daughter. Breaking a pencil? In what world is that going to hurt someone? Even the paper, was he tearing up a hand out that was never done? Clearly this is too much for her daughter so it may be best for that child to switch.

It doesn't bother your daughter, she appears to be happy someone is dealing with these kids so she can learn. It would seem your daughter will thrive in that environment.

The thing with over the line, these kids apparently don't respect their teachers, it seems like nothing touchy feely has worked in the past. If what the teacher did was soooo over the top, soooo scary, sooo crossing a line, don't you think those little reprobates would be scared straight? They apparently are still pushing the limits so it doesn't seem like any line was crossed.

Your friend's daughter is just overly sensitive.
After reading some answers, my answer comes from looking at two different perspectives. You have one kid who thought it was great someone was trying something new and another that thinks the world is going to end. One child puts emphasis on the pencil and paper, the other remembers the pencil and doesn't even mention the paper. That says to me this wasn't an extreme, yelling, humiliating, trial the one child paints it out to be and that seems to be what everyone is reacting to.

I had papers ripped up as a child, ones I put a mess of effort into, ones torn up for all the world to see, it went on for some time to make me an example for all the world to see. I get that, and I am sure most people here have seen it. Thing is, no one in my class would have seen that as no big deal this apparently some kids do think it was no big deal so perhaps it really was not the same as what we remember as children, ya know?

8 moms found this helpful

the 'lines' that teachers can cross are becoming more and more unattainable.
caning was allowed (although admittedly rarely used) in my school. while i don't want to return to those days, it seems a little nuts to me that a frustrated teacher can't snap a pencil or tear a piece of paper. children are rarely so fragile that this will scar them psychologically.
and if they are? well, their parents should be working with them on dealing with real life. if there is consistent bad behavior in the classroom that is resulting in learning being affected, the teacher is going to get pissed. there SHOULD be an element of healthy fear involved, and teachers should be allowed to inspire it. if every child in the class is a little leery of invoking the teacher's wrath, maybe she can actually get on with teaching.
sounds like your kid has a great attitude.

8 moms found this helpful

I really hate teachers like this in the younger grades. It sets such a bad 'vibe' for the classroom. It affects ALL kids and not just the ones in trouble. That being said I think that kids have different thresholds of tolerance for this kind of teacher. It sounds like your daughter is ok with it and her friend is not. I do not blame her mother for requesting a switch-I probably would too. The constant state of stress that this kind of teacher puts into the classroom is actually very unhealthy. Kids are walking on eggshells all year. If I were you I would monitor my daughter for signs of increased anxiety or anything else that may be out of the ordinary, Remember-children don't always realize something is affecting them. She may 'appear' fine with it but be actually internalizing negative emotions.

6 moms found this helpful

IMHO, it would depend on the teacher's demeanor when he broke the pencil and tore up the paper. If he did it calmly, then it's fine. IMHO he is just trying to let these kids know right from the start that certain things will not be tolerated.

Now if he was angry and grabbed the pencil and/or paper in an angry manner, then I might agree that he crossed a line and that he may have frightened your friend's daughter.

Given that he is a very sought-after teacher and the fact that your daughter seemed to smile when recounting the event, I'm assuming he was calm when he did this and was just trying to get these kids' attention. The other kids in the class probably appreciated it because they are tired of their day being disrupted by these kids' behavior.

5 moms found this helpful

Your daughter is coming home from school happy every day. She's not complaining about her teacher, even when SHE was corrected, she accepted it, changed her behavior, and moved on. Honestly, not having been there, I would give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn't do anything, and I would not repeat it as gossip.

I disagree with moving kids out of a classroom as a knee-jerk response to story they come home with. What they learn is Mom will come in and "save" them immediately. They aren't learning to actually deal with any problems, just to run from them.

I think your Mom-friend should not have emailed or called you, or contacted the principal, but asked the teacher directly to meet with her and her daughter so they can discuss some strong anxiety she is having to school this year. Mom can coach daughter or help explain her anxiety to the teacher. Geez, it's only the beginning of the year. At least give the teacher a chance to make things better for the sensitive child. It also tells the teacher in a non-accusatory way that maybe his actions startled some of the more sensitive kids. Maybe all it will take for her child to feel better is her teacher acknowledging her feelings and telling her he is sorry that his actions caused her stress. He will probably also explain why he felt the need to come down hard on this misbehavior. Mom and child have the opportunity to better the student-teacher-family relationship, but she's only going to make matters worse by rallying others against him immediately.

5 moms found this helpful

One of my sensitive little girls detested her school due to the misbehavior. But she was scared to start this other school because they were strict and did not tolerate any misbehavior. I told her that SHE was not the one who would have a problem... it is the type of child she doesn't like that would have a problem with the strictness. SHE would be happy to be in the result of that environment. Long story short... She LOVED the school. So so SO loved the school. Loved the clean bathrooms (at her other middle school kids SMOKED in the bathrooms!) Loved that other kids did not steal and bully... she felt SAFE.

You do not know what the child was doing with his pencil that caused the teacher to make an example of his pencil by breaking it. Was the child possibly using it as a weapon by poking someone with that pencil? Was he sticking it up his nose trying to be "funny"? Was he destroying a book or his desk with it? The teacher might have just been making his own "point" - Use your pencil as a weapon. toy, or destructive tool, and the pencil (or whatever other object you are using in such an inappropriate fashion) will be destroyed or otherwise removed. TAKING IT AWAY would be a better option. But must we make such an uproar over every little thing the teacher does? The teacher should be reminded that destruction of the property is just another act of violence and is scary to some children. Taking the object away is more appropriate. That's all. Big deal.

Teachers have so few ways to keep peace in the classroom these days. Parents complain about everything.... and it is all the other children who suffer.... and we wonder why they can't learn much at school... because the teacher spends so much time having no effective means of discipline for the children who love to misbehave... getting some kind of powerful omnipotent feeling out of the teacher's impotence.

Sounds like your own child understands exactly what is really going on. Too bad the other parent can't explain to her own daughter what I explained to mine... just wait. The school (classroom) environment will be better because of this.

5 moms found this helpful

I've had teachers tear up papers in front of the class before. It was usually because the child was being extremely disruptive or not following rules etc, and it demonstrated that they just got a 0 on that assignment. I have no problem with that. While I think the pencil breaking was a little extreme - I don't think it was over the top.

5 moms found this helpful

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