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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Advantages of Jessup's discipline strategies

Jessup reveals the tensions between the teachers and administration. Teachers initially viewed Jessup's discipline tactics as a threat to their authority. However, Jessup regarded his tactics as a means to enhance the teacher-student relationship within the classroom. His discipline strategy also allowed him to develop trust between himself and the students.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Discipline.
JOHN JESSUP:
We try to be tough. Dan Pickett was a tough disciplinarian and of course I try to be tough.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
That was your Black administrator?
JOHN JESSUP:
Of course he was the main tough man and I try to be the second tough man. The main thing that we emphasize--we try to emphasize two things. You are going to be treated fairly and secondly we are not going to tolerate a lot of stuff. Those two things we try to establish. When I say that you are going to be treated fairly, when I went to Mt. Tabor teachers didn't appreciate my coming and asking what happened. They didn't appreciate my saying, "Would you explain the situation. The student said this. What do you have to say? Tell me about the situation so that I can understand it better." They felt that I was questioning their integrity but after a little while they realized that that was my way of doing things. I believe that when you are fair in working with people you are always going to have somebody who is dissatisfied with you because the teacher is not always right and the student is not always right and the parent is not always right. So therefore, with that being the case there were teachers in some instances who didn't care for the way that I dealt with the situation but I felt that I was dealing with it fairly. I never tried to embarrass a staff member at any time in conferences or so forth and I think that they would say that was the case. If it was obvious that they were wrong, then the way I look at it we ought to just apologize and say look we are going to try not to do it again and if there were uncertainty then I would say let's compromise and if it is obvious that we're right then I'm going to say we're going to stand on it so that is the way I try to deal with the kids. Try to treat them fairly and I believe they knew we tried to do something. The other thing in regard to discipline. You can't beat personally contact. When I went over there, the kids wouldn't let you touch them. They probably don't do that in Statesville. The kids didn't want you to. They' de say, "Don't you put your hands on me." By the time we left I could walk up them and put my arm around the guys and chat with them and then have my little private conversation with them and it didn't bother them at all and I really appreciate that fact. Another thing too we had a policy against wearing hats in the building. For instance, the last year that I was there we had problems and we encouraged them not to wear hats and they would take them off and put them back so I let them know that we have reminded you so from this point on I will take your hat and I basically told the staff that I would deal with the hat situation.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
And you would keep the hat?
JOHN JESSUP:
What I did was the first time I took a hat I would take the hat to my office and write it up and he had to personally come to get his hat. I'd say, if you ever repeat, that is my hat. You might get it back at the end of the year. So I collected hats. Teachers didn't like it too well because in many instances they felt that they didn't get the respect that they deserved when they worked on that particular policy but what I never could get them to understand that what I was doing was disciplining them in the hall before they got to the classroom. As Dan Pickett and I said once as we stood in the hall and some kids were trying to get to class and they were talking, some of these kids don't have to be on time anywhere except school. Some of these kids never experience any kind of discipline except school. So what I strongly believed in was the fact that every time that kid responded to me whether it meant him walking down the hall and my grabbing his hat off or whether it meant that he handed the hat to me or whether it meant I had to take him down to the office with me and deal with that situation. Every time I did that it was breaking a little bit of the resistance that he would have when he got to the classroom. That every time the person made me it was developing that discipline in the classroom. People didn't understand what I was talking about--most of them didn't. Also, it gave me an opportunity to get to know my kids. A couple of years ago, I said, he's one of my football players, a Black boy, I said I want to talk to you a minute. He said, what, Mr. Jessup. I say you know something-- the way you walk and the way you look and the way you talk you try to be tough. He started laughing and I said you know something, I believe that you really think that you can intimidate some of the people right here. He just laughed. I said, I tell you one thing there is just only one bad dude on this campus and that's me. I said, there is only going to be one and I said do you understand what I am talking about. He said, yes. But you know at that point in time I could talk to the kids in that particular manner. I can think of one situation last year. I try to make it very clear to them concerning discipline. Why I was doing things...