The Dunce’s Cap- green, yellow, red – singling out the children

October 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm 10 comments


It has been many years since I watched my little 2nd grade daughter stand across the street , tears falling down her cheeks, holding her tummy as she lined up to go into Irving School.

Holding my hand up with total honesty, I hated the fact that every day of the week for months I had to turn my children over to the personality , thoughts and teaching ability of people who were comparative strangers. I breathed a sigh of relief when K- 12 was over and done with.

The reason my little girl was so upset was her 2nd grade teacher, a person who delighted apparently in sending a message to the class by “accidently” getting their hair caught in her bracelets among other pseudo teaching techniques such as pinching .
My little girl was petrified, although she hadn’t had her hair caught, the threat was there as it happened to her little friends. This fear manifested itself physically , tests ( and some gastric tests that were not pleasant for the child or her mother ) were done. Discussion with the pediatrician turned up the child’s fear. Obviously , I contacted other mothers and two of us went to the principal, who naturally supported the “bracelet /bangle woman” .

” Oh! don’t read too much into this , children exaggerate, get things wrong, after all they are only six and seven ….. I will talk to the teacher yada…. yada…. yada .”

Not to be fobbed off, and since it was still warm weather, I stood under the open window of the classroom to hear and see for myself the teaching of this “bangle batterer” . The children weren’t exaggerating . And I, therefore, dealt with the situation, but I can still see that little face on those horrific school mornings .

Now, of course, discussions with friends, who too, have little grandchildren (we grandmothers tend to chat about our perfect grandchildren) and this green- yellow -red “card” or “table” way of teaching . I suppose this is the latest version of the dunce cap

So placing pupils in Dunce’s corner could breach a pupil’s human rights, say councils. This has been used as a punishment in schools since Victorian times. But the original purpose behind ‘Dunces’ was to help pupil to learn better.

In the 13th century, a Franciscan monk and philosopher, John Duns Scotus, developed a ‘duns cap’ to be worn by children who needed something to help them focus. Detractors of Scotus made fun of the cap. Over time the ‘dunce’s cap’ came to be associated with ‘stupid’ children, and was eventually misunderstood and used to stigmatise and make fun of such children

OH! I know from whence I speak- 1st day of school – 4 years old -taken from my nice warm home environment to a large classroom with desks- children crying . I still remember, over a half a century later, being singled out, made to sit on a stool in the corner ( no cap) as an example of bad behavior because I couldn’t stop crying. Miss Waters ( probably dead by now) was forever burned into my brain and I felt the pain of stigma and shame for the first time. A cuddle of understanding would’ve worked wonders or even a tissue , a positive distraction may have done the trick- but sitting on a high, hard, uncomfortable stool as an example to others what they would suffer was not the way to get a 4 year old to stop crying. roxeth manor

end of caning

My elementary school of the day and the school governors did not frown upon corporal punishment. The Head Master strolled the playgrounds with his cane- and not to help him walk – it was his caning stick for little back sides and or hands – and for the girls- a leather slipper.

The end of caning and the slipper didn’t come into play in Britain until 1981

Evening Standard, London, 30 January 1981The last day of the cane — beaten at last

And it wasn’t just England where the teachers wrath could be felt- Canada – New Brunswick was my next “schooling” experience- there you were controlled with the strap for misbehaving – this was not banned until 2004!


The strap has also been used on minors in reformatories and in schools. The latter was particularly prevalent in Canada, applied to the student’s hand, until abolished in 2004, but there, in modern times at least, it was generally made of canvas/rubber rather than leather.

The other recommended teaching tool in Canada was the “shame basket” not having done anything worthy of the strap or paddle ( the paddle being given by the principal in the library) whereas the strap was dished out in the classroom.

Ah! Miss Green( also probably dead) you will live on in my memory- not for being a great teacher- but for that strap hitting my palms and the look on your face

No ! the shaming wastebasket stood next to the teacher’s desk. The wastebasket made of metal and quite large became the receptacle, not of papers and trash, but children who were thought less than perfect. You had to stand in the waste basket for the rest of the lesson – you are a “waste of space” lesson to be learned. I spent many an afternoon standing in the basket for “questioning” Miss Green.

And now same principle, different teaching tools, the green , yellow, red- Ok! I get it teachers need tools for behaviors – but who really sees the shaming of yellow and the punishment of red – the other little 5-6-7 year olds?

Are you telling me a professional who has obviously has been through the courses of “How to Teach” and has the diploma and student loans to prove their education- has to resort to shaming to get their point across? Ultimately, that is what it is shaming – whether it is a board with marked cards or tables at which the child has to sit for a predetermined length of time .

No More Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light Behavior Management Plan!
The Safe Keeper System

I have tried the famous Red Light Classroom Management plan that is used in classrooms across America. (Every child begins each day on a green light. Certain behaviors and choices will change their light to yellow or red. Usually, yellow and red lights had consequences attached to them like loss of recess and so forth.) As a behavior management tool, it simply did not work in helping children learn to make better choices. It did succeed in providing consequences for misbehaving children – an important fact! But those same children kept “misbehaving.” It was not teaching them new skills.

There has to be a better way because if you are expecting “peer pressure” to work for you – I suggest you look at what is happening in this country – the more despicable the behavior the more people are “following” .

Bear in mind little ones in kindergarten, 1st , 2nd and even third grade don’t have agendas – they are trying to learn and they all learn at a different pace – they aren’t your enemy – they are in your care – little sponge like minds soaking in every day’s experiences- be careful what you do to that little person and the experiences you teach .

If you have a problem “call home”, email or send a note to the parent, stop categorizing these little ones – they need reading , writing and arithmetic, not being stigmatized.

The best teachers I had, were not of the punishing kind, they found my strengths and strengthened my weaknesses.

Thanks Miss Calder/ Mrs. McKay , Mr. Laidlaw and Mr. Lee because of you I Blog!!! Oh! yes, and I had Miss Green for Grammar – now all is explained !!!! Don’t get me started about “core math” being a product of the horrendous experimental “New Math in Canada ”

Click to access oshea.pdf


The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis, in order to boost science education and mathematical skill in the population, so that the intellectual threat of Soviet engineers, reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met.
Topics introduced in the New Math include modular arithmetic, algebraic inequalities, bases other than 10, matrices, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra, and abstract algebra These topics have been greatly de-emphasized or eliminated in US elementary schools and high schools curricula since the 1960s.

Entry filed under: Blogging, Brit take, education, hell is other people, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

“Drop the Dead Donkey” are we still laughing? Housing Court and You – Lorain- Continued

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. richrob2013Rich Robbin  |  October 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Standing in the corner? Standing with fingertips holding you up at blackboard. Chair in corner. ‘Swats til 9th grade? Wow –

  • 2. thatwoman  |  October 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I had it worse than you 🙂 never got the cane but the slipper at 6 you remember especially since I wasn’t the guilty party and that you remember and resent…..
    At many schools, students who committed minor classroom offences — talking or disruption, for example — could be punished there and then in the classroom by the class teacher. Typically this would involve two or three quick, sharp swats across the seat of the offender’s trousers, with the student either bending over the teacher’s desk, or standing and bending forward with hands on knees. This also served to demonstrate to the class that such behaviour would not be tolerated. Immediately after being punished, the student, closely watched by his classmates, would have to stand up, turn round and go back to his place and sit down, adding to the embarrassment and pain, both of which were seen as part of the deterrent to further misbehaviour.

  • 3. Joe Smith  |  October 15, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I’m a Sputnik baby! That may explain a lot.

  • 4. -Alan D Hopewell  |  October 15, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    I have no problem with corporal punishment for truly unruly children, having been one myself. However, humiliating children, or allowing them to be humiliated by their peers, in an alleged attempt to “mainstream” them, is cruel, and says more about the instructor / administrator than the child.

  • 5. linnett  |  October 17, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Lorraine, your memory is better than mine, the only one I remember is Miss Calder and who could forget Mr. Lee, so handsome. Hope all is good with you. Linda

  • 6. thatwoman  |  October 18, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Hi Linda , actually Miss Calder / Mckay was here for a few days a couple of months ago – good catching up – don’t you remember Miss Green her front teeth used to pop out when she got angry and the time she chased Tommy Andrews al around the classroom she was so angry ……. ah Mr. Lee we were all in love with him in the 8th grade…….

  • 7. linnett  |  October 18, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Was Mrs. Green the French teacher, I do remember someone chasing Tommy around the classroom, and he remembers it too. Nice to hear from you.

  • 8. thatwoman  |  October 19, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Yes I think she taught French as well and it was because I laughed I got punished and I remember getting poor David McKay in trouble

  • 9. linnett  |  October 19, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Saw David last week and he hasn’t changed at all, said to say hi to you

  • 10. thatwoman  |  October 20, 2015 at 11:28 am

    those were the days………

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October 2015

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