I met a gentleman, Eric, on an airplane. As we exchanged pleasantries, and he found out that I was a professional speaker in the field of education, he related the following experience to me.
He described himself as having been a rather loquacious youngster, and his teacher had moved his seat away from his friend. Eric wanted to send a message to his friend. So after writing it, he carefully folded the page into a very successful flying object. When he was sure the teacher was not looking, he jettisoned the plane toward his friend, and just then Mrs. Christenson looked up to see the missile grace the air.
She called Eric to her desk and said that since his plane flew so well and since he liked to talk that, after the morning recess the next day, he would have the opportunity to explain and show the entire class how he was able to make such a successful paper airplane.
Eric told me that if he had been punished, he didn’t think he would ever remember the incident. However, to this day he remembers how his second grade teacher used the incident to teach him a lesson in a positive way by building on an incident that could very well have resulted in punishment.
Eric’s story is not the first I have heard where misbehavior was acknowledged—but not punished. The perpetrator still remembers how a skillful adult used the opportunity to teach.
Too often, we use punishment when it is not necessary.
Superior teachers empower and leave lasting legacies with their students.