Charlotte Dial, whom administrators at the high-performing charter school call a “model” teacher, was filmed yelling at one of her students, ripping up their homework in front of the class and telling them to “go to the calm-down chair and sit!” Dial then proceeds to shame the child and ask for another student to “come up and show me how she should have counted to get her answer.”
The video was filmed in the fall of 2014 by a concerned assistant teacher who had been troubled by Dial’s behavior for some time. She filmed the incident after witnessing what she described as Ms. Dial’s “daily harsh treatment of the children” and shared the video with The New York Times only after she left the school in November 2015.
Though the video has shocked many, Dial was allowed to re-enter the classroom after a brief one-week suspension. Though her behavior goes against the school’s supposed guidelines, which include refraining from yelling at students, using sarcastic tones or giving “consequences intended to shame children,” the dismissive way in which Dial’s case was handled suggests differently.
Founder of the Success Academy network Eva Moskowitz seemed unconcerned when the video surfaced and felt that the reprimand Dial received was good enough. She maintains the opinion that Dial is still one of Success Academy’s model teachers, saying, “This video proves utterly nothing but that a teacher in one of our 700 classrooms, on a day more than a year ago, got frustrated and spoke harshly to her students.”
As for reducing a first-grader to tears, Moskowitz is fine with that also. “Olympic athletes, when they don’t do well, they sometimes cry,” Moskowitz was quoted saying in a speech last month. “It’s not the end of the world.”
However, these are not Olympic athletes. These are first-graders whose emotional needs are vastly different from fully functioning adults’. While we don’t know what happens on a daily basis at the school, we do know that shaming and berating children is a form of emotional abuse, and the consequences, while not immediate, are long lasting and troubling.
Karyl McBride, Ph.D. and author of The Legacy of Distorted Love, says that shameful messages become internalized and follow children into adulthood. “It becomes a barrier for a healthy emotional life and is difficult to eradicate.”
If the Success Academy network wants to raise high achievers in all areas of life, it needs to consider the emotional damage it is causing its students, because having a high-performing student is certainly not worth stunting a child’s emotional growth.