She called me out.

After leaving my students with a sub for the day (due to TAKS test small group administration), I took the opportunity at the end of the day to have some teacher-student time with my homeroom class. We were all gathered around on the carpet talking about the day and the upcoming Science TAKS test tomorrow, when two boys from my afternoon class came in. They walked right in and started to interrupt our discussion. I stopped them to ask what they needed. One of them answered, “We need to ask *Johnathan something.” The other child ignored my question and walked through my class straight to Johnathan. I told both boys that they would need to wait until after school to talk to their friend, *Johnathan.

Let me give you some background:  These are the kind of fifth grade boys that cause trouble: a lot. They are very smart, and therefore have a way with timing and humor. They are almost always a distraction to the classroom learning environment. We modify for them, we tolerate, and lately, I’ve been upping the consequences with each time they toe the line. Unfortunately, they are developing a sense of entitlement coupled with an increasing attitude problem and disregard for others that is an almost constant struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I love them with my whole heart and enjoy their personalities. Sometimes they make me laugh so hard that it brightens my whole day. But, it still is what it is: a struggle.

So, after they leave my classroom, I try to regain my train of thought from just before they arrived. We continue our conversation and one of the young ladies in my class raises her hand. She says, “I want to ask you something but I think you’re going to get mad. Promise you won’t get mad?”

What else am I really going to say but, “promise”?

“How come you let them [the afore mentioned boys] get away with stuff that you would get mad at us for?”

(She pauses… and then she elaborates, more out of nervousness than anything) “… Like some of the stuff they say and do, you would send us to the office if we did that, but you don’t send them.”

(Now I pause… thinking… man, she totally just called me out in front of the whole class… how did she get so wise at 11?)

I looked my kids right in the eyes and I said, “You know what, that’s something I have actually been giving a lot of thought to lately.” (I have… day after day after day.)

Immediately several of my other children chime in. “Yeah, the other day *Mike and I said something that totally wasn’t as bad and you got really mad at us.” “They never go to the office.” “They interrupt and talk out and they still get to run errands and stuff.” I didn’t realize how perceptive my children were to the issue.

I continued our conversation by being as real with my students as I could be. I said something along the lines of “You know boys and girls, as teachers, we really don’t want our students to hate school. And when students are in trouble all of the time, they start to hate school. And if they hate school, they aren’t open to what I want to teach them. And if they are in the office or out in the hall all of the time, I can’t very well teach them either.” I ended with something like, “You’re right though, you make a very good point.”

Here I was, in front of my students, fudging my way through excuses to justify my discipline of these students. As I walked them all out for dismissal and said bye to the student that originally asked the question, I said to her, “You totally called me out today and I appreciate that.”

Now, I have to figure out why. Why do I let them get away with murder, so to speak? Immediately a list pops into my head: they are dying for attention, they can’t keep their attention focused on anything, they already hate school and I can’t push them further, they just need to be accepted and appreciated by me… the list goes on. Most of these reasons are fact, but they are still excuses nonetheless. No matter what the situations are, it is my responsibility to hold all students to a standard of appropriateness, respect, and self-control. It is also my responsibility to prepare all students to be successful in their futures. I am doing a disservice to them if I continue to enable them.

I still can’t believe that my sweet 11 year old called me out today, and with such a matter-of-fact wisdom. She wasn’t being rude or disrespectful. If anything, I think she was being protective, like “Why do you let them do that to you?” She was right.

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    • Tenille
    • April 30th, 2009

    Marly,

    You are a gifted writer. Your story makes my heart happy. I think there are a multitude of educators out there who need to write as an outlet. The job we do is tough, and as rewarding as moments like these are, they stretch us and grow us in lasting ways. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be stopping by your “teacher blog” quite often!

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