Memories · The Last Half Century

Teaching Respect with the “Board of Education”

When I was in second grade my teacher had the Board of Education to reinforce her discipline. I’m not talking about a table full of people who regularly meet to operate the school; I am talking about a board of wood that my teacher used to educate us on matters of behavior. And yes, it actually had printed on it, “The Board of Education”.

Now before you think I grew up in some kind of primitive civilization with ancient, barbaric customs, paddling children to discipline them was not uncommon in schools in the 1960s. As a second grader, I feared the board that sat on the chalk rail in front of class. No student wanted to be humiliated by “The Board of Education” applying its discipline in front of the rest of the class. It was incentive for us to behave. Once, and only once, did I face that humiliation.

During recess I was innocently playing marbles when my classmate John started picking on me. I told him to stop it, but he persisted. After this went on for a few minutes, he took the marble I was playing with and ran. I pursued him and when I caught up with him he abruptly stopped, turned around and hit me in the gut. It wasn’t a hard punch, but enough to motivate me to hit him back. We scuffled on the far end of the playground for a few more minutes until the bell rang to signal the end of recess and our fight.

When we returned to the classroom I told the teacher sitting at her desk in the front of the class, “John hit me at recess.” Immediately the teacher called John to join me at the front of the room. I waited for the moment that justice would be served to John for picking on me. What came next caught me by surprise. The teacher had John tell his side of the story, which he promptly told how I hit him. I was cross examined and then admitted I did hit him, however it was in self defense. My teacher had a different opinion.

“I won’t accept this kind of behavior from either of you,” she exclaimed. “You both need to respect each other and treat each other the way you want to be treated.” At that moment I knew we were in trouble. John and I received “The Board of Education” on our backside in front of the entire class. We went back to our seats humiliated as the whole class laughed at us. John and I never fought again.

Sometimes I think of my second grade teacher and what she would have to say about society today. I wonder if she would use more than words on some people to instill a little respect for one another.

© 2020 CGThelen

2 thoughts on “Teaching Respect with the “Board of Education”

  1. Our humiliation was doled out in “dunce caps,” a folded cone of construction paper given to you as you marched to the corner. Guess it left an impression: first grade, 1961!

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