“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." Kate DiCamillo
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
SLICE #27- A LESS THAN STELLAR TEACHING MOMENT
As I mentioned in a previous slice, our school participates in a philanthropic organization called Book Trust. That means that each student gets $7 a month to order from the Scholastic flyer. Kids are required to order books, they can't order toys or other junk. Occasionally, however, they find a book that comes with some trinket- a necklace or a sticker set or a special pen. They can order those, as long the package also includes a book.
And that's where this story begins. Last month, one of my students ordered a book about training animals. The book came with a whistle. I always check the orders in, and I remembered seeing that book and whistle. When it came time to pass out books, though, that student's name was attached to a different book. And the book with the whistle was nowhere to be found.
A few days later, I heard a whistle blowing out in the hall. And discovered that it was the whistle that had been attached to the book. When I confronted the student who had it, she said someone else had given it to her. Both students have been caught taking things several times this year, so I had questions, but I never quite got to the bottom of the story. I ended up reordering the book and whistle package.
This month, remembering the whistle incident, I was extra careful with the books that had trinkets. I put wide strips of tape over the trinkets, then I put all of those book/trinket packages all in one box, and closed it. I passed a few out to my first class, but still had a couple left for my second and third classes.
My students came in, and got involved in the day's activities. I started passing out books. When I turned around, two girls, the same two girls who had been involved in the whistle incident, had the trinket box opened. And I lost it.
"Get out of that box," I said, in voice that was less than regulated. The girls jumped away from the box, and said they weren't doing anything. I replied that we had lost a book package before, and it wasn't going to happen again. The girls went back to their seats, but were mad at me throughout the class. That was the last day before spring break, so I haven't seen the girls since, but I keep thinking about the incident.
I know I didn't handle it right, but I'm not sure what right would have been. I want to talk to the girls when they come back. I want to apologize for losing my cool. I don't want to accuse the girls, but I do want to describe what the scene looked like to me, and why I thought they were in the process of taking something that didn't belong to them.
And I want to talk about integrity, because, for me, that's really what the whole deal is about.
And the lack of integrity bothers me a lot.
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I appreciate you being the model for the truth-telling slice. I also appreciate knowing that teachers for whom I have the utmost respect, like you, bring their whole human selves into the classroom. For me, the infinitely-patient-teacher-persona can be a real burden to bear some days. And it’s especially destructive/unproductive when I don’t engage in the kind of reflection I hear in your piece because I’m so busy berating myself for not meeting the saintly-standard I’ve set for myself.
Carol, I've been thinking about this ever since I read it this morning. These are tough issues we deal with when theft occurs in our classrooms and I think every teacher has faced this before. What I love about this slice is the thought you've given to how to talk to the girls when they return from break.
Thanks for this, Carol--it is very, very rare that it's clear how best to handle cases of wrongdoing in our classrooms and schools--both easier and harder than parenting in different ways. I appreciate reading about another teacher's dilemma, misstep, and self-searching to provide the best experience of learning and compassion for our students.
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