The Pain Test, III

My head is still spinning from the conversations here, here,  and here on Google+ about pain and punishment in factory-model schools – and from thinking and writing about the inherent pain in the system over here.  Meanwhile, it was a really great day for my formerly-distracted class on Tuesday – no need for anger or punishment or pain – and I kept wondering why they seemed to need and crave an angry response from me on Monday.

Debbie had some great suggestions in her comments on this thread:

During parenting workshops and anger management workshops one belief/statement I heard many times was that “the kids won’t listen to me unless I yell”. A relationship was formed over time and the habit was created where directions were not followed until the adult’s face turned red, veins were popping, and the voice could be heard around the block.
How did this happen?
A condensed version looks like this: the parent tries to direct a child (from the parent’s perspective of what needs to be done) and the child doesn’t respond as expected; the parent tries several times and running out of options as to what to do turns to anger. Anger gets the child’s attention and the child responds. The parent has found a strategy that works and uses it when “necessary”, when all else fails or when there is a time urgency. The child learns that  the parent really doesn’t mean what he/she says unless  there is yelling involved. “No” doesn’t mean no unless it is presented with anger.
And so this style of communication is formed; this understanding of boundaries has been set; and this reliance for it has been established — and stays with the child through the school years and into adulthood where the pattern continues in one way or another.

(Laura, George, Bernardo, and Drew had great suggestions, too, but I’ll save them for another day.  This post is getting LONG!)

This universal parenting tendency has probably contributed to my students’ “need” for anger.  And some situational details in my face-to-face world have probably made parental anger more common than “usual.”  Times are hard economically here, as everywhere, and families are economically stressed.  Stress frequently leads to anger.

Long-time readers of this blog know, I live and work in a military community – and ever since 9/11, that has meant that a lot of my students spend significant time with at least one parent deployed. Deployments are hard for families as well as for the person who’s deployed, and part of the pain comes from missing huge chunks of time with your loved one. Even after a deployment, the readjustment period is hard and stressful. And anger as a disciplinary tool – and a communication tool – is a common response to stress.

Lots of other students in that class have more “conventional” complicated family lives – single parents, or step-parents, or absent parents they rarely see. Those complex family situations also breed stress and anger.  And what about my male students (two-thirds of the class are boys) who don’t have a male authority figure at home?

And of course, when you live and go to school in a military community, lots of teachers are also going through the same kinds of stress and pain in their loved ones’ deployments.  So stress, pain, and anger appear in classrooms, even if they aren’t present at home, when teachers’ loved ones are deployed or returning.  And a classroom-based pain-punishment cycle can leave a child expecting, even counting on a “good” display of anger sometimes.

And since the pain-punishment cycle seems to be built into the very structure of factory-model schools (I’m thinking about Debbie’s point about the effects of time urgency), there’s a whole constellation of reasons why my students might crave a pain-punishment “fix.”

But “fixes” are for addicts.

I don’t want to be a pain-punishment pusher, and I don’t want my students to be – or stay – pain-punishment junkies.  Is the pain-punishment cycle an addiction?  Would it respond to addiction treatments, and how could you detox a person, a group, or a whole school from pain-punishment anyway?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 9:56 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Like an addiction. […]


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