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.