That’s what the child told her mother.
“There is nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper!”
That’s what the teacher Ms. Dial told the child as she struggled with a math problem.
In 2014 a concerned teaching assistant secretly recorded the following video of Ms. Dial reacting to a student’s incorrect answer. In the video, we see young students sitting quietly while Ms. Dial asks a student to count something again. The young girl is sitting adjacent to Ms. Dial. There is a slight pause when Ms. Dial asks her to count it again. Then we hear Ms. Dial say, “count” in a very strong serious tone. On the floor, we see yellow blocks. The young girl counts, but Ms. Dial rips up her paper and throws it at her. The child sits quietly with her hands folded. Ms. Dial then directs her to go to the calm down chair and sit. As the girl walks to the chair, Ms. Dial crosses out something on the board. Ms. Dial then asks other students to demonstrate how to count correctly. Multiple hands go up, and one student volunteers to count correctly.
As I have watched this video multiple times, I have had many concerns.
Concern number one: Confidence
As I listen to the interaction between Ms. Dial and the young girl, my heart goes out to the girl. I feel especially worried about her confidence both in math and in life will be impacted by this type of treatment.
Nadya Miranda, the girl’s mother said, “It makes me feel bad as a parent — like, what am I going to do to build her confidence all over again?” A HONY story comes to mind. In the post, a grandfather says, “His grandmother and I are raising him. I worry about putting him into the public school system. I was a teacher for many years. I’ve seen so much confidence destroyed by the standardized system.”
Giving children a sense of confidence is so key. It affects every aspect of their life, not just academics. Situations like these can tear down and rip holes into a child’s self-esteem. As mothers, we have to work extra hard to instill a sense of confidence in our children because there are so many forces in the world that are ready to tear them down.
Concern number two: The right answer
Teachers and parents must be aware of what I call “the right answer” syndrome. Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy explains how researchers have “found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.” In the video, and most likely in daily practice, students are only praised if they get the right answer. What would have worked better is if the teacher had assisted the student in the process of how to work out the problem, instead Ms. Dial punished her for getting the wrong answer.
Concern three: Teacher stress
Teaching is a stressful job that requires a lot of patience. From the short video, it seems that the teacher is very frustrated and is taking it out on the kids. In a press conference given by Success Academy, parents and staff members offer up support for Ms. Dial. Parents and teachers noted that often teachers have 11 hours days, put in extra time at home to prepare lesson plans, and make tremendous sacrifices in terms of time and energy, all so that their students can be successful. However, no one seemed to be connecting the dots that all of those factors contribute to a stressed out person that is more likely to be abusive with language. Teachers need stress management. Schools put a tremendous amount of pressure on teachers, and many teachers operate out of stress. No teacher should be this stressed out when explaining a simple math problem.
Concern four: Parent-Teacher relationship
It is imperative that parents know about what is going on in the classroom and have a strong relationship with their child’s teacher. It is not enough to just know how well they did on a test, or how their academic achievement is progressing. The teacher should be able to comment on their personality changes, confidence in the classroom and motivation as well. These are critically important topics to discuss with the parent when a child is not meeting expectations, rather than berate a child.
Concern five: Parental Involvement
“She used to tell me: ‘I’m never going to get it. I just don’t know. I’m not as smart as the other kids, ’” Ms. Miranda said. “I would hear that from her, and I’d be like, ‘Where are you getting this from?’”
Then she saw the video, and she knew. If you hear your child doubting themselves academically, talk to their teacher and ask if the teacher has noticed the same behavior. Consider the teacher your partner in educating your child. You need to have good communication and a clear understanding with your partner in order to obtain your goals.
During parent-teacher meetings, ask these questions. Then ask your children these same questions, and compare their answers. Be prepared to discuss concerning discrepancies with the teacher if need be.
This video captured a classroom gone wrong, but we can learn from it. Be proactive about having your child understand that they should respect but not be afraid of their teacher. Explain to your children what emotional abuse is, and let them know it is not ok for adults to abuse them this way.
Lastly, if we expect teachers and school staff members to treat our children with respect, we must model it at home so that they know what it looks like. Parents too must avoid lashing out over simple mistakes and instead should speak gently to our children.
Mothers, what is your reaction to the video? Would you be ok with a teacher treating your child this way?