Saturday, December 1, 2012

Honesty is the best policy

On Wednesday I had to leave my last period class 4 minutes early to go to a meeting while another teacher covered my class.  I came back after the meeting and a picture of a girl that had been hanging on my back board was gone. I was livid.  It wasn't about the picture itself, it was the fact that I left for literally 4 minutes and someone took something from my room.  I think that is so disrespectful and I take it personally.  I also knew exactly who took it.

So the next morning I found a kid from the class who I knew would know what had happened and asked him who took it.  He claimed he had no idea (lie).  While talking to him, two other kids that I also have walked up and asked what was up.  I explained to them what happened and that I was not happy. One of them that was in the class also claimed to have no idea (also a lie).

The other one who is not in the class got a look of disgust on his face and said just said it was so stupid that someone would do that.  I love this.  It means that kid respects me enough to not tolerate other kids being rude to me. Kids frequently stand up for each other so when they start standing up for me instead it makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

I had thought that the other kids felt the same way, but apparently not.  So during the guilty class I had the "I'm so disappointed talk" with them.  Told them that standing up for someone that did something wrong also means that they don't have enough respect for me to do the right thing.  Told them that taking something from my room is something I take personally.  Said that if anyone knew anything I would appreciate knowing what had happened or to have the picture returned.  Told them that above all else, I value honesty.

The rest of the period was spent quiet, with no joking around, and all privileges/leniency taken away. Tables were turned to rows.  They were not allowed to talk to anyone around them.  I still helped them with their work and was super nice (even to the guilty kid- he was really confused and I sat with him for a bit and worked through things slowly and being very nice), but that was all.  I did not laugh with them or joke around like usual.  Things were business only.  Very formal.

This conversation only works when the kids care about me.  When they don't want to disappoint me.  When they really respect me and my class.  If they don't, the conversation will mean nothing to them.  They'll walk out of the room and laugh about it.  They won't feel bad at all.

At the end of the period as all the kids left, one kid stayed back to tell me what happened.  He asked me not to say that he had say anything, which I never would do.  I was very happy that he told me, but I was still disappointed that the rest of the kids didn't.  The next morning a couple of them tried to joke around with me like we usually do and I didn't joke back.  I asked if they had anything to talk to me about and they said no.  I just shook my head and said I was really disappointed to hear that, I thought they respected me more and walked into my room.  Within 5 minutes them and a couple other kids were in my room offering to get the picture back because it was right outside the window.  They said that after school yesterday they were all talking and decided that they should get it back for me.  They also told me who did it.

Now a couple things.  I knew exactly who took it and never expected him to admit it, apologize or to return the picture.  I also knew exactly which kids were covering for him.  Those kids were the ones that I was aiming for.  No one was punished, and I didn't take it any further.  The picture was returned to its spot and I carried on with the day as if nothing had ever happened.  The guilty kid, however, knows that the other kids aren't going to cover for him.  The picture sitting on the board now is a constant reminder of that.  My hope is that he'll be less likely to do something rude because the other kids respect me enough to think it's stupid, not funny.

A stolen picture may not seem like a huge deal (and it's not) but it's about picking your battles.  I chose this battle because I wanted to make it clear that I do not tolerate things in my room being stolen or damaged.  I put a lot of time and effort (and money) into my classroom so I want things to stay nice. Kids pretty much have free reign over everything in my room (they even sit at my desk from time to time) so I need to be able to trust them, which I do.  All in all, this made me very happy with my kids.  I really respect that they came to me and did the right thing and I really appreciate knowing that they will stand up for me.  Most of all, it makes me happy that things are this way after only one marking period, it makes me look forward to the next three.


  1. I was out of my class for an inservice one day 2 years ago. on that day I had 2 500 packs of origami paper stolen (from a closed cabinet). Who knows what they did with it, but besides the wrappers I never saw any of it again..

    The thought that some kid who I had nutured and ttreated with respect had done that, and others let it happen was what bothered me most

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, it's really the worst feeling :(

    2. The same year, the kids took the sand, yes sand, out of my tape dispensers. (Evidently that's how they weigh them down)

      I still have the (too light) tape dispensers in my classroom and every year I tell the story of why they are so light. The kids I've had since then have all (almost universally6 agreed that its really sad when students will even steal sand. (By thanksgiving I bring out "new" tape dispensers and the students all thank me for it. Lol

      Love the blog, by the way.

  2. I put a lot of time and effort into my classroom too and it is also something that gives me joy to do. I don't remember having anything stolen, but whenever something is dmaaged or torn off the wall it really upsets me. Good on you for taking a stand and the way you managed it, too.

    1. Thanks! Guilt is usually my weapon of choice..I felt like it was a stand off and I won :) I love making my room look nice too so I always take it personally when things get damaged intentionally.