When I was 8 years old, my morning chores including collecting the eggs of the 30-40 chickens on our farm. I’d bring them to the kitchen, wash my hands, and walk to school with my older sister. It was a simple 4-step process: collect the eggs, deliver them to the kitchen, wash up, and head off to school.
Unfortunately, I sometimes forgot Step 3, washing my hands, meaning that I might have had some ch*ckenshit in my fingernails when I entered my 3rd grade classroom. Unfortunately for me, my 3rd grade teacher was a hygiene fanatic who required each of us line up and approach her desk, breathe into her face (had we brushed?) and show her our hands (had we washed?). I always brushed my teeth after breakfast, so I never failed the halitosis test, but she got me on the “clean hands” exam quite a few times.
Each time the punishment was a BLACK STAR next to my name on the wall chart that was prominently displayed near the classroom door. She started the chart on Day One, and I got quite a few of those unforgettable BLACK STARS during the year. It was humiliating, but I still made the mistake of not washing up quite a few times. I was only 8, or we were running late, or whatever….
What brings this to mind is the practice in some benighted school systems of posting students’ scores on state exams on a so-called “data wall” in each classroom, so that every kid can see how he or she did…and how everyone else did. That’s supposed to make kids work harder….
Teacher Launa Hall has written a thoughtful essay about this trend, which I urge you to read. She writes that she resisted the requirement at first but eventually gave in and created her own “data wall,” a decision she regretted as soon as she saw her students looking at the scores.