A fifth-grade boy is learning a hard lesson about following his teacher’s instructions. The woman reportedly asked him not to call her “ma’am.” When he did, the boy was punished. To enforce her message, she had him write the word out multiple times. Now the bazaar incident is going viral and the teacher is having to answer some difficult questions.
This first is this: who punishes a student for being respectful? The teacher’s name hasn’t been released. She teaches at the North East Carolina Preparatory School.
When Tamarion Wilson, 10, called her ma’am, she disciplined him. She singled him out, during class, and made him write “ma’am” repeatedly, until both sides of a sheet of notebook paper were filled.
Ma’am is an elision of the more proper word madam. Madam is, in almost all of its definitions, a term of respect. The notable exception would be its use to describe a matronly woman who operates a brothel.
In the south, where this incident took place, it is still common for many people to use “sir” and “ma’am.” Some children are raised to always address their elders with the formal terms. This term of respect is often extended to anyone with whom the speaker is not a direct peer.
“Teretha Wilson was shocked when he returned home from the public charter school with the sheet of paper, for her to sign in order to complete the punishment,” Daily Mail writes.
“I asked him what happened. He said he got in trouble for saying ‘yes ma’am’,” she told reporters.
The teacher argues that the punishment came only after she had asked the class to refrain from using the respectful term. Wilson, though, has some memory issues brought on by a seizure disorder that had resulted in a recent hospitalization.
“The teacher, who has several years of experience, admitted in a parent conference to saying she would like to throw something, but said it was a joke,” DM added.
“As a father, to feel kind of responsible for that…knowing that I have been raising him and doing the best that I can, it’s not acceptable,” McArthur Bryant, the boy’s father, said.
After speaking with the parents, the boy has been moved to a new classroom. There has been no word about what, if anything, has happened to the teacher.
“This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal,” the school wrote in a statement.