I've been teaching forever...and have worked with many different children. I grew up on Long Island and teach on Long Island now but, my first year of teaching was in Texas...which, in 1985, still had corporal punishment. Michael was constantly in trouble. Each day, he would come into my fourth grade class, tell me that today was probably his last day, and then try to make that a reality. His foster mom had told him if he got into any more trouble, she was sending him back. So he believed she would.
What I saw in Michael was a funny, clever, frightened little boy. In my class, it was how he acted. But everytime he left my room he would talk back to a teacher or fight with a student and get paddled. I begged him to stop. Finally, one day he got in trouble at lunch and the vice principal made me, who never paddled and didn't believe in corporal punishment, witness his paddling. While this little boy grabbed his ankles and held back his tears, mine flowed freely down my face. When all was done, Michael looked at me in shock. "Please don't do that again," was all I could say. "Bring your problems back to me."
Michael didn't get in trouble again that year. He came to me with problems, we talked about solutions, and things got better. Michael did get moved out of his foster home, but into a permanent one with a loving foster mother. He moved to a new school and I never saw him again. I can only hope Michael remembered how to solve problems without causing trouble.
I know I will always remember that there is ALWAYS a better solution than violence. And I know that all children, even the tough ones, deserve kindness and respect. And that they all need someone who cares about them. How sad that sometimes the only person who does is their teacher.