Dear Principal: The Teacher Hurt My Kid's Feelings xoxo Clueless Parent


News today out of Miami-Dade County reveals a “mean ole teacher” really hurt the heart and crushed the feelings of a precious second grader.   Here is a the story in a nutshell.

Poor Joshua Innocent (seems to me the kid is going to be leaning on that last name for many, many years to come); being humiliated is a terrible feeling. 

Seems it might have been far less humiliating if only the folks at WJ Bryan Elementary knew all the dirty details.  Lucky for Joshua, his mother Rose was willing to share their business with the news cameras.  Now people all over the world know that his teacher is a meany. 

 I know not all educators are perfect.  But stories like this make me cringe and question how often this crap actually goes on at schools across the nation.  When I hear of a story like this that becomes “news worthy” I wonder how teachers put up with parents like Mrs. Innocent. 

They clearly do not get paid enough.


What was the teacher’s crime?  Humiliating a kid in front of his peers because he was not behaving in class.  I would think this information was not quite the shock as his mom would like the world to believe. 

Seems to me if a teacher has to send home daily reports regarding behavior most of the kids in the class are already aware of the situation.

Lucky for Joshua he is growing up in 2011 ~ the age of “full disclosure”.  Back in the seventies, teachers humiliating students occured on a daily basis; hardly the stuff that would become breaking news or the leading 10:00 p.m. news story.

Back in third grade I had a teacher that did not put up with nonsense.  Word in the halls of my elementary catholic school told tales of complete humiliation that came at her hands.  Mrs. Caron’s punishment was not quite like our second grade teacher that applied masking tape to a talkative kid’s mouth.  Nope, she was crafty; the lady in charge of Room Six did one better.

Hanging on the wall next to Mrs. Caron’s desk was a greeting card.  On the front was a hippopotamus with his mouth open very wide.  At the bottom, printed in very neat teacher’s handwriting were the words “I HAVE A BIG MOUTH”.

There were two punch holes on the top that a piece of yarn was carefully strung through.  Inside the card and on the back were printed names of students who had to wear the card.  Wearing the card was the consequence; signing your name as proof was the punishment.

What could a kid have possibly done so wrong to earn this punishment?  They talked in class.  If you talked, you were warned.  If you talked again, you took the card off the hook, put it around your neck, and wore it around school for the rest of the day. 

When you returned it to the hook at the end of school, you neatly put your signature on the next available line.  This would forever preserve your notoriety as a BIG MOUTH.  Kids from that day forward would be well aware that you, indeed, had a big mouth.

The hippopotamus card had been around for years and you might think it was running out of space for new rule breakers to wear and sign.  Not as many as you might think.

When you entered Room Six, even the most talkative kid suddenly turned silent.  The humiliation associated with wearing that card around scared most chatty third graders straight.  Word was out in the hallways of St. Michael’s ~ Old Mrs. Caron did not tolerate nonsense.  The kids knew it–the teachers knew it–the parents knew it.

I got busted flapping my gums a couple of weeks prior to Thanksgiving ’74.  Unlucky for me, Mrs. Caron’s Math Class was the second class of the day; I got stuck wearing that lousy card for six more periods.

As I was lined up headed to gym class, my older sister’s class was coming from the library.  “Miss Know-it-All” stopped dead in her tracks when she spotted me wearing the notorious hippo card.  She mouthed the words “I’m telling” as she continued on with the other fifth graders, single file.

Now that my crime was outed to my sister, I knew my ass was grass on the homefront.  The genius behind the “hippo card” knew it as well.

Catholic schools in the seventies contained many families with multiple siblings.  Teachers did not have to staple notes or even call home with word of bad behavior.  Why waste the ink or drop the dime.  Every bratty kid had a superior sibling somewhere in the hallways; teachers knew all to well their dirty work would be done for them.

Looking back my third grade teacher’s hippo card idea was brilliant.  Thanks to that card hanging close to her desk she commanded complete control of her classroom.  Good behavior was expected and the consequence of the entire school,(not to mention the possibility of your parents at home finding out by a squealing sibling), knowing your crime was the alternative.

Was it humiliating to wear that card?  You better believe it.  Did I ever sign my name to it again following that fateful day in November 1974?  Nope.

The sheer disgrace associated with my classmates knowing my crime via a big ass hippo on my chest was enough punishment for me.  I would never subject myself to it again. 

Worse than the dishonor at school was the wrath of my parents once they got wind of my “infraction”.  Having to endure my father’s lecture regarding the black mark I put on the family name by signing the “hippo card” was far worse than the humiliation I suffered in the halls when the kids whispered about me wearing the dreaded hippo card.

Thanks to the hippo card, order was commonplace in Mrs. Caron’s classroom.  Not only did Room Six have well-behaved children in its classroom, the teacher had grateful parents in her corner. 

Sometimes humiliation is good.  Instead of alerting the news media that the big, bad teacher did not apologize to her for bringing shame to her kid, perhaps North Miami’s future mother of the year should look at the bigger picture.

Instead of removing the kid from school, she should use this as a learning experience.

Seems to me the only person who warrants an apology is the teacher.  Her class was disrupted because of his behavior.  Once he’s done offering teacher an olive branch, he should offer some to his classmates.  They are also worthy of an “I’m Sorry”.  Class time is precious, unruly students should not take away the teacher’s attention from children who want to learn and are willing to listen.

Then Mom should let Joshua in on a secret.  If little Josh does not want his feelings hurt when kids laugh at him because he misbehaves…maybe he should stop misbehaving.




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  • Seriously? You are comparing catholic school "back in the 70's" to the modern day PUBLIC education system... Are you kidding? In case you hadn't noticed, things have changed... You are talking about a time when segregated schools were still rampant and abortions were illegal... It is pretty obvious that the appropriate way for the teacher to handle this would have been to pick up the phone and get in touch with the parent directly... My sister has been a teacher for 10 years so I'm not biased against teachers, but I do have a problem with stupidity... What kind of message is the teacher sending? It is ok to embarrass someone if you don't like their behavior? It is inappropriate for a teacher to ever embarrass or even touch a student, which the teacher would have had to do to to staple something to a child's shirt... As an adult in the workplace being made to feel embarrassed by a superior in front of other people is grounds for a lawsuit, as is touching someone without consent... What would happen to the mother if she took the note back to the school and stapled it to the teacher's shirt? She would be arrested... You are obviously out of touch if you are think the same behavior that was appropriate 35 years ago still applies today... Also, if you are an educator who deems this kind of behavior appropriate, then you are part of the problem with the education system... Yes, teachers have a tough job, but I am quite certain they were aware of what they were getting into before they chose the profession... This is a system which broken, and teachers like this are not helping to fix it...

  • The solution 35 years ago was One Extreme and the Parent calling a press conference today is Another. At the risk of sounding like some yellow bellied peacenik liberal...there has to be some kind of middle ground.

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