Monday, January 18, 2016

Mind your P's

Several years ago I used to visit the parenting forums on the Today's Parent website; it was a good place to share ideas and ask for advice.

One day a woman posted to the "School-Age Children" forum. Her question went something like this:  

"My little boy can be pretty noisy at school.  Yesterday when he came home he told me that his teacher had told him to be quiet, and then she taped his mouth. He said she did it lightly -- but is she even allowed to do that? What should I do?"

Well, the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan, and so did the punctuation marks:

"OMG, are you serious??????"

"Call the principal RIGHT AWAY!!!!!"

"Call the school board and have her removed. No teacher should be allowed to do that to a child -- EVER!!!"

"Absolutely zero tolerance!  This person should not be allowed around children -- EVER!!!!"

"Call Children's Aid! That's abuse!!!!"

"I don't care if she taped his mouth 'lightly'; that's absolutely unacceptable.  If the school won't do anything, call the police!!!"

Then someone wrote, "She did WHAT? Like, with duct tape?"

The original poster wrote back: "No -- she reached out with her finger and taped him on the mouth."

"Uh ... what do you mean, 'with her finger'?"

"She taped him on the mouth, like she was saying 'Shhh, shhh,' trying to get him to be quiet. It was just light, but I don't know if she's actually even supposed to touch him at all."

"Ohhhhhh .. you mean she TAPPED his mouth."

And suddenly it was a whole different discussion.

Some mild disagreement followed about whether a teacher should ever touch a student, even gently, especially when attempting to exercise discipline -- and about whether it even made sense for a teacher to say "Shh" and touch a child's mouth rather than her own. These were valid points of debate, but the tone of the conversation had completely changed. Nobody seemed to doubt that TAPING a child's mouth and TAPPING a child's mouth were two very different things calling for drastically different responses.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this incident:

Small things can make a big difference -- as anyone knows who has tried to send an email message but has one wrong digit in the email address.

It's often a good idea to confirm and clarify before reacting emotionally.

 Two things that look very similar can actually be worlds apart. 

And finally -- knowing how to spell and to conjugate verbs is really important. It can save you and everyone else a lot of bother.


  1. This made me laugh, Jeannie. I've come across stories where the author used spellcheck, but forgot that spellcheck is fallible and that your and you're are different words, or some other such issue.

    I was particularly amused by the excessive punctuation marks because I'm reading a cookbook where the author uses exclamation points excessively. Every description of a recipe (all ones that she LOVES and ADORES) includes at least one exclamation point! Because, obviously, she LOVES! Every! Single! Recipe! Yes!!!! And they are all absolutely fabulous for you! And will make you glow with good health! And transform your body! And . . . you get the idea.

    1. I do!!! :-) But after a while the excitement starts to seem a little less exciting, doesn't it?

    2. Laura, those recipes better be THE BEST EVER or Id' toss the book!
      I meant it!! Honestly!!!

    3. Laura, that is TOO funny!! I just LOVE that!! And, your SO right about the spellchecker!!

      As my brother likes to say, "Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Jeannie. And for the reminder to pay attention to spelling:)

  3. Jeannie, the overreaction is astounding in one sense and yet too par for the course in another. Tape? Um, perhaps some more context would help?

    Oh, tap? Again, context helps inform the discussion.

    But this gem fits perfectly with your context: "Two things that look very similar can actually be worlds apart." Great reminder, Jeannie.

    1. I saw a tweet the other day that said "There's a special place in Hull reserved for the person who invented autocorrect." Unfortunately this was before smartphone days so the mixup on the forum can't be blamed on that
      :-) But one thing that hasn't changed is the tendency to react in a knee-jerk way; if anything that's worsened.

  4. That is hilarious! I'm not sure which is better (or worse). To tape a child's mouth or to tap it. Small things do make a difference!

    1. Yes, and as Tim says above, context is everything. Well, that and spelling.

  5. In 5th grade I had a teacher who actually did tape a kid's mouth shut one day, and I think she did use duct tape too. (ouch)

    In the case you tell of at least there was a spelling problem to make the reaction somewhat explainable, though not justifiable. A friend of mine put a comment one day on Facebook asking her friends something like, "How do you tell your spouse that it is time to go?" She went on to ask about special signals and such. I admit that I was slightly thrown off by the first sentence myself, but after re-reading the whole comment I understood what she was asking. I knew one thing - it would be completely out of character for her, in her happy marriage, to send her husband packing. However, a bunch of people, including some who know her quite well, were all freaked out and thought she was getting ready to get a divorce. When I talked with her later she was pretty appalled. It was a good lesson in being careful of one's wording as well as jumping to conclusions.

    1. That's hilarious, Mary. That could mean so many things: "Honey, you should visit the bathroom now." :-) But yes, it's a good reminder to be clear in what you say & write.

    2. Yes, it could. She was talking about parties, social events, church and such where having a special signal to let the other know you're done and ready to leave can come in handy. :-)

      Thankfully, my friend could see the humorous side of the mistake so many people made as well. :-)


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