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ANONYMUM: "The way my son's teacher punished him has me furious."

As a parent, you have to make peace with the fact your kid will do some bad things sometimes, and as a result, they will be disciplined. If it happens at school, you most likely won’t be the one handing out the punishment.

And that’s okay. As a parent, you accept that, and put your faith in the teachers to hopefully handle the situation as you’d wish, and as the situation warrants. Generally speaking, that’s been my experience – until this week.

On Monday, I collected my 11-year-old son from after school care. He was standing outside the building, facing the wall. I thought he was playing a game. But it turns out he was told to “go outside and face the wall” by the teacher, who added that she would get him inside again when she was ready.

According to my son’s watch, that had been 15 minutes ago. I was absolutely horrified.

His crime was apparently laughing too loudly during a movie they were watching, and “riling up the other kids.” Well, that’s how the teacher explained the situation to me. She also said it was standard practice.

I was stunned, because it simply didn’t make sense. Was sending an 11-year-old child outside to face the building’s wall effective in any way? What did it achieve?

And more importantly, it sounded to me like a frustrated teacher doled out a punishment, rather than enforced a consequence for my child. It didn’t sit well with me at all.

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You see, I’ve never understood punishment by humiliation. Thirty years ago, I watched my best friend spend an hour of every day standing outside the classroom for talking too much, or too loudly. She was humiliated by it, and it still hurts her now to think of it.

It was a rejection designed to control by humiliation – not sound discipline. Because if it had been, wouldn’t my perfectly lovely and smart friend would have learned from it after the first few weeks.

Look, this isn’t about me being precious about my child. My kid’s certainly had his fair share of time outs and lunch time litter duties…and it’s always been for talking. I get that. There needs to be consequences. There’s a time and a place for everything.

I understand it’s annoying for teachers when they simply want to get on with teaching. I understand sometimes kids need to be separated if they are being disruptive.

But going outside, while everyone watches, and then being made to face a wall? What does that achieve except extreme embarrassment?

"I'm not sure I see the point of discipline by isolation in a child over 10." Image: Getty
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Being quite shocked by the situation, I decided to ask some teachers for their opinions.

Justine, a secondary school teacher, said to me, "In nearly 10 years of teaching, never have, nor would I ever ask a child to face the wall as punishment. It is her job to manage classroom behaviour."

She added, "When a student is interrupting the learning of others it is fair to ask them to stop, to relocate them next to the teacher, or an empty space in the room and remind them of their responsibility to the entire group of learners (that everyone has the right to learn)."

In Justine's opinion, facing the wall as a punishment would do more harm than good to a child.

"Never would I ask a child to face the wall as ‘punishment.’ This denigrates them, makes it obvious to the rest of the group that something is going on, thus interrupting their learning, and most importantly prevents that student from completing any further learning."

But then, Emily, a Kindy to Year Two teacher, who explained she employed the 'traffic light' system, where colours represent warnings, said she could see how removing visual stimulation can be valuable in certain situations.

"I might ask a child to turn around if they are attempting to continue antagonising or distracting others while in time out.

"Depending on the student, facing the wall could be employed by the teacher to remove stimulus from the child in question, whether it be the other students in the room or sensory overload - limiting the visual stimulation could assist the student in calming themselves."

All of this has made me wonder - is this technique perhaps more effective than I realise? And more common?

It's also made me question my thinking as a parent...and I'll admit, my trust in that teacher, more than a little.

What do you think of facing the wall as a punishment? Tell us in the comments below.

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