“I had to sit in the break chair today. I just couldn’t stop talking!”
I nod and keep loading the dishwasher. Each evening, around the dinner table, we all talk about our days, the good, the not so good, and sometimes, who was sent to The Break Chair.
I used to seize up about any form of school discipline. Ack! One of my kids had to sit in Thinking Time?! Oh, no!
I wasn’t upset because I believed my kids to be perfect and incapable of doing anything naughty (Nope. I live with them. They are not always saintly.). No, I used to get flustered because it sends me back to Elementary School Sarah and the Talking Tallys.
When I was in elementary school, I attended a strict, conservative Christian school. My family wasn’t religious; my parents just needed the before and after school care this school provided. So I spent many confusing years listening to tales of a Fire and Brimstone Jesus. But that’s a story for another day.
This school, like many schools, invoked disciplinary measures. It was rumored around huddled discussions on the playground that one form of discipline involved a paddle. One with holes in it, so when the principal swung it down across your bottom, the impact created maximum burn.
I’m only a little bit scarred from attending this school.
Anyway. I wasn’t ever paddled. So I can’t attest to that. But I can attest to Tallys.
Tallys were handed out left and right and up and down, for what seemed like every indiscretion. You step out of line. Tally. You’re a girl who dares to show up in pants. Tally. You forget to raise your hand. Tally.
You talk too much?
I racked up a lot of Talking Tallys. A lot, a lot. I remember that hot shame rolling over me as my teacher handed me a stack of Talking Tallys to bring home for my parents to sign.
I’m not saying schools shouldn’t discipline. I’m also not saying I have problems with a Break Chair. We all need a break sometimes. And we all need to be respectful. I’m just thinking that sometimes, sometimes, the thing we get in trouble for is also our biggest asset.
“You know what, Kate?” I said, rinsing and loading plates into the dishwasher. “I talked in school too. And I had got a lot of tallys for talking.”
“You did?” she said.
“Yep. I sure did. And it’s important to be respectful to your teacher and the class. And sometimes we need to take a break. But, here’s the thing. I built a success career out of talking. Talking is my job.”
She runs over to me and gives me a hug. I squeeze back and wonder how my chatty girl will use her talent.