Guest Writers

A Different Kind Of Punishment #twits

Save Sprinkles has been a wonderful and constant commenter of my blog in the Blogosphere. When I started following her, I learned she has two daughters and she has a couple of years until she becomes an empty nester.  She also comes with one husband and two lazy cats.

Sprinkles has a cool list titled “50 things I want to do before I turn 50,” but I think she has only actually generated about 40 or so items. One of the things on her To-Do list is “sew something.” I think she needs to sew a pillow and cross that shizzle off her list. But I think she means she wants to sew something elaborate that she could actually wear. Like out. I’m not sure. She also wants to add 10 words to and get something published. Okay, so these are a little harder than making a pillow. You can check out Spinkles’s list on her blog “How Can I Complain?” HERE.  Also, you can Twitter-stalk her at Sprinkles1234_.

Here is her teacher memory.

• • •

A Different Kind of Punishment

At nearly six feet tall, Mrs. Larson towered over her fifth grade students. I had never noticed just how tall she was until the afternoon she stood above me on the playground holding the back of my shirt in one hand and the back of Dawn Cooper’s shirt in the other.  She had just separated us from a ferocious girl fight of nameless origins. It may have started because Dawn said my shoes were ugly or because I stuck my tongue out at her in the lunch line, or because Dawn and I just never got along. The starting point didn’t really matter because now we were both dirty, scratched up, and in BIG trouble.  Mrs. Larson stood us both up against the ancient school building and told us to choose a brick on which to touch our noses. As my nose rested against the rough, baked clay, I worried profusely about what my punishment would be. It was Friday and the weather was beautiful. I was looking forward to a weekend of bike riding and I didn’t want mean, old Mrs. Larson to screw things up for me.

Sprinkles in 5th grade

I knew from prior offenses that Mrs. Larson was a “mom caller” and nothing was a worse punishment than a poor behavior call from the teacher.  In my house, if you got in trouble at school, you got in ten times more trouble at home, and I wasn’t looking forward to that!  When playtime ended Mrs. Larson calmly told us to report to her room during recess on Monday for our punishment. I spent the rest of the school day striving for perfect behavior, in silent hope that she would forget to call my mother.

My stomach ached on the bus ride home. Had Mrs. Larson called my mom already, or would she call once I got home?  The entire weekend passed slowly as I nervously anticipated my mother to call me from my play at any moment and banish me to my room. Each time the phone rang, my heart stopped for a brief moment, but Mrs. Larson never called.

On Monday morning I solemnly completed my schoolwork and avoided the sneers and snooty faces that Dawn made at me from across the classroom. At noon, I could hardly touch my lunch. Although it was years before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released The Waiting, it certainly was “the hardest part” of this punishment.

Finally, the hour arrived and Dawn and I made our way back to the classroom walking on opposite sides of the hallway.  Mrs. Larson was poised in the doorway, waiting to usher us in. She directed us to the table where we normally sat for group work, and instructed us to sit side-by-side. As I reluctantly sat next to my nemesis, I noticed two soup bowls of soapy water on the table and a zippered cosmetic case. Not wanting to prolong the suspense, I blurted out, “What are you going to make us do?”

Mrs. Larson suppressed a smile. “I’m not going to make you do anything,” she said. “I’m going to show you how to do something.”  Then she told us to place our fingers in the soapy water.  As our hands soaked in the sudsy warmth, she explained that Dawn and I were going to give one another a manicure. Step by step, she guided us through pushing one another’s cuticles gently back with an orange stick. Patiently, she showed us how to use an emery board to shape each other’s nails. When it was time to choose a polish, Dawn and I chose the same lovely pink color, and with painstaking neatness, each painted it on the other’s nails. As we waited for our polish to dry we found ourselves chatting, then laughing and making plans. When Mrs. Larson was sure that our nails were dry, she sent us out to enjoy the last few minutes of recess.

As simplistic as it was, Mrs. Larson’s punishment stuck with me. I learned far more from it than I would have from a lecture, from a spanking, or from a weekend spent grounded. Mrs. Larson didn’t just show me how to give a manicure.  With her gentle guidance, she showed me how to make a friend.

What lessons have you learned from punishment?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

Last week: Jessica Buttram: “Hard Ass”

41 thoughts on “A Different Kind Of Punishment #twits

  1. What I learned: Punch a jerk in the snoot and you get free career training and don’t use up your parents’ retirement because now you don’t need college. If you punch the dopey teacher in the face perhaps they will also give you an “already started business” to take over too. Personal incident: One time in junior high (now you know how old I am), I got sent to the dean (now you know how old I am). I don’t remember the incident (it was very serious), but I did not think I was wrong. He said he was going to call my father at work. I told him that my father was middle weight champ US Army 1943 (true). He beat the champion of English army (true). That if my father thought I was wrong he would beat me half to death. That if he thought you, sir, were wrong he’ll beat you half to death. The dean never called, sent me back to class and said he did not want to have to see me ever again.

    1. I would have been afraid to call your father, too, because I wouldn’t have wanted a student to be beaten half to death! 🙂 I went to a “junior high,” as well! BTW, did the dean ever have cause to see you again? 😉

  2. Sprinkles:

    I cannot imagine anything like this happening in today’s classrooms. It’s almost impossible for me to think of a teacher taking that kind of time and care to teach two students something.

    As far as learning from punishment goes, my father grounded me one night as I had planned to wear really holy jeans out on the town — the kind that were all the rage in the 1980s. You know, like Madonna wore. You know, the one’s where half your butt was hanging out? Those. Basically, I learned never to wear them at home and, instead, I toted them around in a bag and changed into them when I got to friends’ houses. So I guess I learned to be sneaky.

    I think that happens a lot with punishment: the punisher tries to send the “right message,” but the information of often not well-received or applied properly. Or I was just stooopid.

    1. I can’t imagine it happening now days, either. I was lucky to have gone to a very small elementary school with less than 20 students in each classroom. Teachers seemed to have more control over what went on in their classrooms back in the good old days of 1975!

      Oh, I know, and I had, those Madonna-like jeans, but I was away at college and could get away with wearing them! 🙂

      Thank you so much for having me on your blog!!

  3. Two of my favorite bloggers in one place! The good news is that this is a great start to my day. The bad news is that it can pretty much only go downhill from here. :p

    As for the actual content? ♥ I love that this was Mrs. Larson’s approach. I love that you’ve shared it so that this example is a living example in my heart as well.

    1. No, no, no!! Your day musn’t go downhill from here!! All of my friends are allowed to only have good days! Wait, isn’t it bad for things to be going uphill and good for downhill? (I wish there was an emiticon with crossed eyes!) That little phrase always gets me confused! 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading, Deb! 🙂 <3

  4. I remember that sick feeling. When I failed a science quiz in eighth grade, I was convinced my teacher was going to call my mom. I thought I was going to throw up every time the phone rang.

    And that is one wise woman!

  5. That is a great story. My mom always said “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Though, I could never understand why she wanted to catch a fly.

    I should tell my brother to read this. He is a teacher and I am trying to imagine him teaching two of his 3rd grade students how to give each other manicures. He did tell me that one poor kid was very upset when he was told he was going to have to take a make-up test the day after he was absent. The kid complained: “But you never taught us anything about make-up!!”

    1. My mom said the same thing and although I’m not fond of flies, I’ve found that her advice works very well with people!
      Good ol’ Mrs. Larson! She was a great problem solver, though now days I don’t think nail polish is allowed in schools! 🙂 Thanks for reading!


    Yes, that has to be in all caps. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

  7. Good story. What a wise teacher – the pain of suspense, followed learning a practical skill (well, I suppose doing cuticles is practical – I’m a bloke – bit vague on all that), mixed in with the seeds of new friendship. Great teacher. Great memory.

    1. Thank you! She was very wise, although I’m sure she would cringe at my cuticles now! Dawn’s were still looking pretty darn good the last time a saw her though! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  8. I never learned anything from punishment other than to try and avoid it as much as possible.

    That teacher was COOL except her strategy would have had a very different outcome if it had been applied to me. I am deathly allergic to most nail care products (including supposedly neutral, butyl acetate). I would have been rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock and Mrs. Larson would have been suspended pending investigation. ;} Oy, the lessons we hope we’ll never learn.

    Great post savesprinkles!

    1. Thank you so much, Teresa. 🙂 I spent most of my time in school trying my best to avoid punishment, but not always succeeding! I was spanked in the hallway quite a few times, and got in even more trouble once I got home. Mrs. L’s punishment was certainly best and most memorable one I ever had. I do have to agree with you that most teachers would never try that one now days without written parental permission. In fact, nail polish was a banned substance in the district that I taught in. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  9. Oh…I should probably add that the beautiful hands you see in my Gravatar belong to Emmy Lou Harris…as does the hair, body, and dogs. I needed to try on long white hair for a while and it was the cheapest option. ;}

  10. Sprinkles, your story brought a tear to my eye. What a true teacher. I’m guessing she was at her wit’s end with you two and this was an inspiration or something a friend or mother recommended to her over the weekend. I only wish good teachers were allowed to teach children these lessons today.

    I remember in 3rd grade having a teacher who put marks on the board for every paddle swat she would administer come Friday noon. I only ever got a paddling once, and it was only one swat. But I had to wait all week to get that swat, and waiting truly was the worst part. I’d love to say I learned some life-altering lesson from this, but what I learned was that teachers are sometimes unfair. I can honestly say to this day I did not deserve that swat.

    1. You’ve just gotta love those days of spankings in school. Not!! I’m sure you didn’t deserve that swat. Most of my swats I probably earned by being overly talkative and fidgety. Mrs. Larson was a gem. I actually never misbehaved in her class again after that. Her punishment made me feel like I was special to her and after that I didn’t dare disappoint her. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! 🙂

  11. Sprinkles, I loved the story. What a wonderful lesson your teacher gave you. I don’t have any lessons learned from punishment stories as I was never bad enough to be punished. (I have some ocean-front property for sale in Arizona also.) I don’t have a specific story, just that I remember when I was a kid, the yardstick and my father’s belt were pointed out to me several (many?) times. Neither one every touched my posterior though and it wasn’t because I behaved, I just learned to keep my episodes below the level where I thought that that punishment might be applied.

  12. SaveSprinkles is one of my favorite bloggers, and I’m so glad it led me here! Wonderful blog idea, and this is a BEAUTIFUL post. I was hanging on every word, Sprinkles! I come from a family of teachers (literally, every single person except me) and didn’t think my respect for them could grow, but it just did. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    1. Awww! What a sweet comment, Julie! 🙂 I love your blog and Renee’s too! I’d noticed from some of the comments on your blog that your sister is a teacher, but I had no idea that the rest of your family is! That’s really cool! Thank you so much!! 🙂

  13. Wonderful story! I do love stories like these that come from treasured memories. I think I will remember your story…one about how one wise teacher could think out of the box…approach problems with love and understanding rather than enforce the rules in the student handbook.
    I worked with a counselor once who visited with a rather troublesome student of mine who I sent to her during our assigned period. I asked her what they talked about. She told me she gave her a color analysis pointing out the colors that she would best wear with her hair color, eyes and complexion. That student thanked me for sending her to the counselor and I really don’t remember any more trouble from her. I love that counselor’s wisdom…that she averted any malice towards me who “sent her to the counselor.” It takes a village.

    1. I love your story, Georgette and totally agree with you! 🙂 Sometimes all it takes is some extra special attention. I once had a reading student who was labeled “behavior disordered.” She had been acting up in class and I knew she would be itching for a fight during recess (her most troublesome time), so I asked her if she would like to come to my classroom during recess to help me put together a little tent I had bought to use as a reading nook. She jumped at the chance and I found that she was very good (better than me) at putting things together and I complimented her profusely. She also offered to organize one of my bookshelves and did a beautiful job. We didn’t talk about her behavior. She had lots of stories to share about adjusting to her mom’s sudden remarriage to a nice man with four children who weren’t so easy to get used to. After that recess spent with me, she was my little helper who hardly misbehaved in my class. She just needed some positive attention and time.

  14. I never would have thought of anything like that. It was genius! And as many said, probably not possible in schools today, although you never really know. And your storytelling is just lovely, as usual! 🙂

    My most interesting ‘punishment’ was in 6th grade math. We had a 2-week project in which we had to get ‘married’ to a partner and manage our finances for 2 weeks. The teacher would give us things that we all had to deal with each day and we checked to see what kind of shape the ‘household’ was in at the end of the project. I was absent one day and when I came back, the teacher said that the day before, a wallet had been found and everyone had to say whether or not they would keep the money or turn it into the police. Since I’d been absent, I had to give my decision right then and there. I was going to turn it into the police, but my friends were whispering furiously that I should keep it. Figuring they had been through this and knew the best answer (and proving how easily led I was!), I followed their advice and took the wallet home.

    Immediately, my teacher yelled, “THIEF!” and informed me that for whatever reason (can’t remember why), I did something illegal and I had to go to ‘jail’, which was under his desk. I had to sit under his desk for what was probably a couple of minutes, but there was so much blood rushing to my face that time seemingly stood still.

    I learned to never again, never never NEVER listen to that little twerp Jonathan N. 😉 Or underestimate Mr. C’s capacity for snarky punishments. Despite the embarrassment (and he really did it in such a good-natured, funny way that it was just embarrassment and not humiliation!), he remains one of my favorite, most memorable teachers.

    1. Awww, thank you! 🙂 You poor thing! I’m glad you weren’t humiliated! I guess you learned a lesson in always going with the choice that you feel is right. I would have gladly kicked Jonathan N’s butt all over the playground for you! 😉

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