God's sole purpose for us on this earth is to have relationship with Him. He desires for his people to be ambassadors of his love. My first experience with his ambassadors was through the catholic nuns and priests who taught me throughout my grade school. Most of them were normal sane people, but several fell short of the art of self control. One of their teaching methods was to try and instill the fear of God in us through mental, emotional and physical abuse.
How did they get away with it? I really don't know. But, that was back then and this is now.
The other night I watched a news clip of a substitute teacher taking his belt to a pile of fighting sixth grade boys. While the world went into an immediate outrage by this behavior, I have to say that this was a typical day in the life of this catholic school girl. In fact, these "mercy" nuns would think nothing of putting their fist up to another students mouth. Primarily the boys. And, usually because they were speaking disrespectfully to them.
It was a typical day for the biggest mouthiest boys in my class to sit in the back row and say the word "ster, ster" (shortened version of sister) while waving their hands in the air. Then when the instructor called their names they'd say something inane like "can I go to the bathroom?" Just to be cool and crack each other up. This went on throughout the day until the adult in our room was thoroughly aggravated and the rulers came out to crack some knuckles.
That was nothing compared to what teachers have to put up with today.
Case in point, and mind you, I could impersonate a teacher with the best of them with my friends, but, I was generally considered a good student and a good girl. Until that fateful day in eighth grade. I'd just risen to grade school stardom by winning the school spelling bee and going on to nationals. My eighth grade teacher Sister Marceline was impressed and I received a golden statue of Mother Mary as a trophy.
She, along with our other "sisters" looked with loving pride on myself and my group of girlfriends. We were respectful, quiet and good students.
Back to my day, so, I'm in the "cloak room" of the class. This is a partitioned area where we kept our coats, lunches and other personal items. We were changing for gym class and I decided my long hair needed to be pulled back into pigtails. Suddenly, a screech rose behind me and before I knew it, I was being beaten with an open hand on my back. My teacher had discovered me and snapped.
Honestly, I was clueless as to why I deserved this treatment. As an adult, I can only surmise that Toody Plutz (name changed to protect the not innocent) and gang had hassled her into a complete breakdown.
As if the physical trauma was not enough, Sister Marceline gave me the ultimate emotional smackdown. "I was going to make you May Queen, but now you're out." Wow that was a huge blow. May Queen was the highest honor to receive in my world. All of this for breaking some nebulous rule about not putting my hair in pigtails?
As I watched several of my closest friends participate in the May court procession I deduced several huge lessons. One, life is not fair. And, I could look at this time as a huge setback in my life. Or, I could put it down to one woman's lack of character and poor judgment.
I did not choose to be a victim. I was assaulted by a representative of a powerful God and she had all the cards. It taught me to think critically for myself. My teacher was wrong. But, apparently so was I for brushing my hair when I should be on my way to class.
You know what? As unfair as that treatment was, it made me a better person. Thankfully, I have parents who taught me to think for myself. It helped me to develop a sense of right and wrong. It helped me to take responsibility for my actions. The punishment was harsh, but, I never stayed behind in the cloak room before gym class or any other class again. Who knows what trouble that one incident kept me out of in the future?
Now, the teacher who took off his belt was fired and rightfully so. But, what happened to the boys who broke out into a fight? Was their behavior now justified? I would like to know if these boys were given a proper consequence for their behavior. Were they given instruction on how to handle their anger appropriately? One can only hope proper manners are taught at home. As a pre-school teacher, I learned sometimes the opposite is true.
Proper discipline requires hard work. And, I think we need to be careful about who needs discipline in this society. A strong system of rules and fair treatment when the rules are broken is deteriorating.
Too many people think it's okay to slap the hand of the educator and/or law enforcers. The entitlement mentality for raising children has become endemic and It's led us into a downward trend of producing a generation of irresponsible adults.
I believe this is part of the root of the mob mentality that ensued in Boston recently. But that's another conversation.
Once again, I don't suggest that physical abuse is the answer. Lack of self control that leads to screaming and physical abuse leads to a lack of respect from the student.
Our solution is in relationship with others as ambassadors of Christ. A mutual respect that comes from honoring the authority of the individual God has placed over us regardless of their failings. And, a respect of the student who is a valuable individual in God's eyes.
Simply put, clear instructions and boundaries go a long way in establishing healthy growing relationships. When consequences are given consistently, peace and security is sure to reign in a dark world.