Not knowing what’s right

I have a student in one of my classes that transferred from a remedial class. I’ll call him Jacob. Jacob is a very sweet kid and I’m glad to have him, though he can be a bit of a distraction. He loves making others laugh and is generally a delight to have. We have a pretty good working relationship. Unfortunately today I’m pretty sure I severed that relationship.

Jacob brought a speaker to school – one of those bluetooth things. It started playing music during class. Now I’m pretty chill about things like that. I don’t take a phone away if it rings as long as it’s the first time and the student puts it away. So we laughed together and I told him to put it away. Then it happened again. So I told him, obstinatea bit more sternly, to make sure I didn’t see or hear it again. Guess what? I did. So on the third time, I told him that if it happened again I would take it. Lo and behold, the speaker announced itself once more. It was five minutes until the bell rang, but I had laid out a consequence. So I told him to bring it to me. My plan was to return the speaker when the bell rang, a whole five minutes later. Problem is, Jacob didn’t give me the speaker.

Jacob started explaining to me that it was an accident and the speaker didn’t even belong to him. Why should he have to give it to me if it was an accident? The conversation became more and more serious until I finally told him – If he didn’t give me the speaker, I would have to send him to the office for defiance. right thingHe continued to try to explain himself and I could see that he was fighting back tears. In one last attempt for peace making, I told him he could hand over the speaker and I would give it back at the end of the day. He still tried to convince me I was wrong, so I wrote him up and sent him to the office.

After he left, I cried. Did I make the right decision? How could I know? I value the relationships I have with each of my students. I especially value the relationships I have with struggling students, but what could I do? If I didn’t follow through, I would be inconsistent at best and a liar at worst. Now that I have though, I’m afraid I’ve ruined our relationship. Any sort of respect he had for me is probably gone.

I have always adhered to the biblical philosophy of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37). The problem is that it’s easier to passively change your mind. I do it every day (think “my diet starts tomorrow”). I suppose it’s good practice for when my son one day grows to adolescence. But I hate it. I want to make my kids like me so that we can work together peacefully. Teaching is Hard

Remember when we were kids and everybody told us that the right decision is often the hard decision? It never stops being true. And it never gets easier. Pray for me, y’all. I want to always do the right thing.

That is all.

3 thoughts on “Not knowing what’s right

  1. I think you made the right choice and that it will all be ok, even if it takes him a few days to get over it and move on. The only thing I think that you could have done differently was take it away sooner, when you heard it the second time. After all, he was already warned. Don’t hesitate to set, keep, and reinforce your rules and boundaries. In the end, children respect you more for it, even if you feel like you’re being hard on them. If you weren’t going to take it away, you shouldn’t have said that you would. Don’t back down! I’m sure you are an amazing teacher, so be sure that you get the respect you deserve! (But this is why I got my degree and taught early ed. I struggle to handle teens with all those hormones and them trying to exercise adult choices.) 🙂

  2. This is the issue every parent has when disciplining. I’ve noticed that children today are much more free to argue and verbalize with adults in a disrespectful manner than when I was a child. You did the right thing. As I mentioned to a friend recently, if it doesn’t hurt, it won’t help them 1) know you mean what you say, and 2) prevent it from happening again. I believe you garnered more respect than if you simply wanted to be his friend. Good for you!

  3. I think you made the correct decision. You were fair and warned him of the consequence beforehand. What would taking his speaker away for the rest of the day have cost him? Why would that make him cry? I would think he would have respect for you and trust in you that you would return it to him when you told him you would. I totally understand about wanting to have great relationships, but objectively he needs to understand there are consequences even if it was an “accident”. My 7th grader asks me to hold her phone in places where she knows it should go off, because accidents can happen. He will learn from the experience and eventually hopefully see that you are sowing good character and following through with what you said you would do. Good job! Wish we had more teachers like you, who have empathy and love, but also understand that there need to be consequences for actions whether it was accidental or intentional. Real life is hard, we need to prepare our children to be able to handle it one day.