Last week I had a student pull a pretty sneaky move.
Normally, this kid is well behaved.
But as kids do, he made a bad choice.
Now, recently some colleagues and I were discussing how we handle these bad choices that our students make (which as we all know is a daily occurrence in our classrooms!).
Some felt that instant consequences work best ie. you are late for school, you receive a recess detention.
Others felt that waiting until the next day to discuss the issue is sometimes a better strategy because it allows for reflection.
I was on the fence, I believe a bit of both is the best way to deal with bad choices made by our little ones.
Now, unfortunately, teachers are cooped up in their classrooms on a daily basis without life lines hanging around or a colleague to consult with. And we all know for sure that if we do not address the bad choice, the likelihood of it reoccurring would be higher.
So I made a decision. I was going to hold this well-behaved child accountable.
Here’s how it went down.
Me – …on page 3 you see number lines, please do not make your own lines, they are already made for you
I happen to notice that Mario*** is not following along and is in fact writing what appears to be a note and/or something other than what is expected of him.
Me – … on the next page (here is where I walk over to his desk and take the paper without saying a word and place it on a nearby table without given it a second glance) you will need to show all of your work to receive full marks.
I purposefully do not draw attention to this action. Most kids are still following along and the only kids who happen to notice were already distracted by him not paying attention to my instructions. Also, I have learned over the years that to call out a behaviour in front of a child’s peers can be pretty detrimental so I try to avoid it as much as possible (I’m definitely not perfect though)
Now, Mario is flushed and quickly begins following along. Meanwhile his paper sits on the table away from his attention until I have time to see what he was up to.
Here’s the bad choice, while I am working one-on-one with another child, Mario decides to grab the paper, and stick in underneath a bunch of papers in my recycling bin.
It takes me about 10 seconds to react, I quietly but sternly ask him to go outside and wait for me.
His eyes pop out of his head (he didn’t think I saw) and stumbles out mumbling something along the lines of “Oh…ok…sure…ahhh….”
In the two minutes I have before I face him I make another decision. This is a teachable moment. He needs to learn that bad choices need to be talked about so that we can both move forward.
So, I walk out with the recycling bin and request that he please look for the paper he has just buried in it. Now he is ashamed, I can see it on his face, his cheeks are red, he is wringing his hands and he will not look me in the eye.
I go back inside and wait a full minute before going back out. Now a minute may seem short to some, but for a 10 year old who just got caught, it can seem like an eternity.
When I get back out, I see Mario rummaging frantically for his paper, he looks up and says “Ms. Nornock I can’t find it” now tears are brimming in his eyes.
Here is where the teachable moment happens.
First, I get down on my knees so that we are at the same level. I do not want to intimidate him, I want to console him through this process as it is a hard pill to swallow (it took me a couple of years teaching to recognize that most kids prefer being eye level with adults)
Next, I reassure him that I am not angry, and that I want him to understand that what is most important here is that he understand why I have asked him to step outside.
I take his hands in mine and I tell him that making bad choices are a part of life. I tell him we need to be held accountable for our actions and that sometimes it is hard for us to do this.
I also tell him that I care about him and that I want him to know that after our conversation we are going to move forward from this. That I will not hold this against him nor will I be given him a consequence.
I tell him that recognizing his mistake and being accountable is more important sometimes then getting a consequence. And to be fair, having to look through a recycling bin is consequence enough.
We briefly talk about how he is normally well behave and that it’s natural to sometimes not follow along in class but that it is important to try to as often as possible.
I then tell him to go splash some water on his face (he has since cried a few tears) and come back into class when he is ready.
When he comes back in I know that I made the right decision. He walks up to me, give me a true apology and hugs me.
As he walks back to his desk, I look around at my students hard at work on their math test and realize the biggest test today has already been passed.