Daily Prompt Punishment Versus Positive Reinforcement


As a result of starting my schooling a year too early in Africa (British children start their schooling at 5 instead of 6, at least that’s how it was in Africa), I was a year too young when I came back to the Air Force Base in Okinawa.

My parents wanted to hold me back so that I matured at the same rate as the other children so they picked a teacher that I had whom they also knew from played golf, Ms. P.  Ms. P. was definitely a unique teacher.  She took us on field trips and taught us all about sea shells and different countries.  She did lots of travelling and had all sort of show and tell goodies.  She gave us stars and stickers when we were good.

Mr. P. had a downside, though.  She called people out for public humiliation when she got angry.  She called out a friend of mine once.  This friend was a sort of electronics genius and he loved reading ham radio magazines and books.  He was nuts about electronics.  She screamed at him in front of the class that she never wanted him reading that trash again.

Once she called me out.  We had a test of some sort, and my grade was bad.  Maybe a D.  She humiliated me in front of the class telling me how I should have done better.  Her anger was over the edge.  She slammed papers down and made a big effort to frighten the shit out of us.  What I remember the most about that humiliation was that it turned out my test was misgraded and I got a C, and she never apologized.

It was right at that moment that I realized that she never understood me.  I was and still am very sensitive about corrections.  I take them very seriously, and I will punish my own self sufficiently for things I know I did wrong.  So when adults punished me harshly as a child, I got twice the punishment, because I would feel like a waste of a human being for not being perfect.

I think it’s because of this teacher that I am a very good teacher this day.  I teach with the utmost of patience, and absolutely no negativity.  I’ve practiced my teaching skills on my dogs.  People and dogs are identical in that they both respond readily to positive reinforcement and encouragement.  Punishment results in all kinds of unpredictable behavior.  I watched all of my mother’s therapy sessions and worked with her all summer, teaching her.  She smiled whenever she saw me, and she frowned whenever she saw my brother (who doesn’t really know anything about being gentle).  I taught origami classes to the retirement home my mother lived at a couple of years ago when I was visiting her.  Mom never took any interest, but the rest of the residents loved it.  The second class I taught was standing room only.

I remember we had a childhood dog in Puerto Rico.  We’d beat the shit out of him if he pooped where he was tied up in the kitchen all day.  Dad would shoot a pop gun at him and think it was a riot to watch him slink away, scared.

When I got my own dog as an adult, I swore I’d find a way to raise him without choke collars and beatings.  I did a ton of research on dog training and then took him to a special “clicker training” dog gym where we spent his first year going to classes learning how to clicker train, doing dog play, training classes, agility, flyball, and attending seminars.  He was a demonstration dog for clicker seminars and was filmed for Animal Planet (although edited out).  That dog finally died a year ago, but my second dog lives in a world of complete positive reinforcement.  “Leave it” are the harshest words he has ever gotten.  I’ve converted him from being a somewhat fearful dog to one with self-confidence and friendliness to strangers.

I’ve thought often of that fourth grade teacher, wondering what I’d do if I ever met her again.  Would I tell her what a rotten teacher she was just for that one incident?  Or would I lie to her and tell her what a wonderful teacher she was?  My Watcher mind notes this attitude in me.  That teacher probably did a million wonderful and special things for me, and that one incident is all I can remember.

Teacher’s Pet
Daily Prompt: Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

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Daily Prompt Punishment Versus Positive Reinforcement

2 thoughts on “Daily Prompt Punishment Versus Positive Reinforcement

  1. Dhammic Writer says:

    It’s funny how sometimes the negative reactions we got from adults when we were children can have such big influences on us as adults – sometimes more impact than the positive reactions. I’m sure my dad did lots of positive things towards me when I was a kid, but what I think was the biggest impact he had on me was my wanting to grow up not being angry and aggressive like he was.

    Liked by 1 person

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