On Corporal Punishment and Public Embarrassment

This is kind of a difficult post to write, mostly because it makes me uncomfortable to acknowledge that the topic exists in my daily life.

I come from the loving arms of Waldorf school where kids write ‘I’m Sorry’ cards and teachers hug kids and corners are rounded from windows to papers. Although I made rounded class signs for each of the classes at Kai Xuan, this gesture cannot mask the fact that I am teaching English in Taiwan where students scream commands au masse and bow and line up and solute and such. It can also not mask the fact that classroom management here is done very differently even than public schools in the US.

I haven’t yet gotten used to the way Special Education is approached here. It is almost as if  SE students are written off from the start and increasingly left alone or ignored. I have been told by my coteacher, ‘oh that one is autism so he won’t do anything,’ and watched her send kids to the single desk at the side of the room if they misbehave. At this desk they do nothing. Often they are sent outside to sit on the balcony, where they cannot even hear the lesson.

We have a first grader who is particularly full of energy and obviously has impulse control issues. He will get excited and dig his sharp little fingernails into which ever body part is closest to him, and he will do it hard. If he is angry, he will show it quickly. On wednesday we were learning a dance to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and I looked over to see him do a full arm sweep of all the belongings on my coteacher’s desk. She stopped class and yelled to everyone to look at him. He stood there with an indignant look on his face, obviously dealing with some emotions, but no one was going to deal with it, and it was obvious from the way that he continued to behave that no one ever had.

As an assistant sub in the US, I have worked with the behavioral program. There are provisions and special cares taken with kids that have impulse control and anger issues. None of these methods are public shaming or yelling or physical abuse. I am never sure what to do when he acts out, as I am not yet formally trained in this, but I am sure I know enough not to berate him and make him feel that he is a ‘bad’ child. That surely only would only enforce his need to act out.

I have seen the students lined up and full on yelled at, students dragged across the floor by the necks of their shirts, and students hands slapped with rulers. Each time this happens, I cannot keep my mouth closed, in a very similar reaction to Michael Banks in Mary Poppins (‘Close your mouth Michael, we are not a codfish!’)

Besides the physical abuse, what almost bothers me more is the constant competition. It seems that every week they are recognizing the same students for this, that, or the other thing at the weekly assembly. What does this say to the kids who can’t afford cram school or just can’t perform on tests or do as ‘well’ as these prize students for whatever reason? Does it just reenforce the feeling that they will never measure up? I want to celebrate all efforts. My LET is constantly having me put check marks on the board to mark who is talking and being disruptive. Calling attention to bad behavoir and never really paying attention to good actions. After the midterm exam, the students with low scores were told to report their scores to the class, and I’ve seen her line up students with no homework so the class could look at them. They laughed, of course, but a laugh is a mask for embarrassment and mortification.

I don’t have a solution for this, I can only say that I cannot wait to have my own classroom in which I can validate each and every one of my students for who they are as human beings, not in terms of how they stack up against their classmates. It makes me feel rather sick to suppose that anyone is ‘better’ than anyone else or more deserving of praise.

Love, Hannah


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