'I will not work for a school that uses shame constantly to try to reinforce compliant behavior'

27th May 2016 at 10:02
Why one teacher chose to leave her school

There were many things that led to my decision to leave College Bound Kids Charter School (not its real name, but very fitting).

However, there was one incident recently that solidified my decision for me. 

I teach Pre-K in a major city in the US. My students are between four and five years old, and have limited time to play due to the school’s very structured and rigid curriculum.

They are able to play at two 20-minute recesses (which were usually cut short due to the "importance" of instructional time) and they can play at centers. Centers, despite being designed for play time, are also structured, with students having to complete activities designed for them and keep their voices quiet.

My co-teacher, Kylie*, and I were less rigid about rules, and we often let students play as they wished within each center.

One day, the principal came in and checked on our centers. She left without a word. A few minutes later, my supervisor Jess came in and rounded up all the kids.

Teaching us a lesson?

She looked at all of them and said, "I'm embarrassed. Does anyone know what embarrassed means?" Kylie and I were confused at the sudden takeover, and sat down to try to understand why Jess would interrupt a class like this. Hopefully, it would be a teachable moment for both teachers and students.

However, as the lecture went on, it became incredibly clear that that was not what was happening. In fact, it seemed as though Jess had come in to humiliate, rather than instruct, both teachers and students.

She said that she was embarrassed because the principal had come in and told her the centers were "unacceptable" and she didn't think this group of kids could go to Kindergarten. Yes, she said that.

Were our centers rambunctious? Yes. Did we need a whole group reset? Yes. But, we did not deserve to be humiliated. Not only that, but what did the students learn? Nothing. Jess didn't tell them what to do next time; she didn't give them strategies on how to fix it. She just threatened them with not being able to go to Kindergarten and made them feel ashamed.

I will not work for a school that uses shame constantly to try to reinforce compliant behavior, something that is already problematic for me.

I am happy to say this is my last term at this school and I've already accepted a position at a more positive school for fall semester.

Hannah Daniels is an elementary school teacher in a major city in the US. She enjoys reading, writing, and baking and has wanted to be a teacher her whole life.

*All names used are pseudonyms.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES USA on Twitter and like TES USA on Facebook.​​



Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today