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Classroom reflections

December 29, 2008|By CLAUD KITCHENS

The premier high school in the state had had a bad day. The school annually produced more Merit Scholar Finalists than the rest of the state combined. A rich curriculum included many opportunities to augment rigorous academic requirements. On this day, however, students and faculty were downhearted.

During the morning, there had been a student assembly in the gymnasium, to watch a ballet company perform. Toward the end of the program, coins were thrown on the floor. Needless to say, the person in charge of the company stopped the performance and had the dancers leave the floor.

I was in the principal's office that morning, unaware of what had happened. Just before the school day was to end, the principal went to the intercom system.

In a slow Southern drawl that stemmed form the mountains of western North Carolina, he began speaking.

"This has been a sad day in the history of our school. Today we were all embarrassed by the acts of a few unthinking students. I would appreciate those responsible stopping by my office at the end of the day to apologize," he said.

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Shortly after the final bell, about 10 boys lined up outside his office door to make their apologies. Most of them had tears running down their faces. There is no question in my mind that the best discipline is self-discipline.

Claud Kitchens, who passed away recently, was an educator for more than 35 years, retiring in 1990 as the deputy state superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of Washington County Public Schools. The Herald-Mail will continue running this column as long as we have previously unpublished material available.

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