Today, my class, along with about 1/3 of our entire school went to an Aces game. Unbeknownst to me, the entire Reno-area would also be there. It was craziness with a capital “Never Again” (I jest…it was actually pretty fun). I feel like I do a pretty darn good job teaching and preparing my students to be on their best behavior everywhere they go, be it the cafeteria, the playground, or a packed stadium. We thoroughly discussed the plan and they repeated my expectations back to me. Not only in preparation for today, but all year long we have discussions about making the best possible decisions in all kinds of scenarios. As my students are only human, and only nine, they do mess up ocassionally. We discuss, as a class, how to right our wrongs and how to learn from the mistakes we make.
Of course, it was MY students caught playing baseball with some juicy plums from their lunch, throwing the failing “balls” over people’s heads like it was no big deal. It was also one of my students who, accidentally, hit someone in the back with a plum that had seen a better day. Of course. You can bet your last bite of caramel apple (the same kind I didn’t get to buy at concessions because I fail to carry cash) that apologies were said, and plums were swiftly confiscated.
You can also bet that wasn’t the end of the story. As the offenders were standing in line with the rest of the class for the bus to go home, they worriedly stole glances in my direction. They had asked if I planned on calling parents or would be sending them to the principal’s office when we returned to school. I told them I would be thinking about their consequence and would get back to them when it was decided. Perhaps, the only good thing I learned during my brief stint at a Montessori school (their “First, Great Lesson” involves fairies, btw), was Love and Logic. With Love and Logic teaching, you take the power back when it comes time for consequences. Allowing your students time to “sweat-it-out” by not handing down their sentencing immediately, you give them time to ponder, reflect, and WORRY. Truly, in most cases, this is the actual consequence.
After thinking, I felt a letter of admission and apology to the dean, who also organized the field trip, was in order. When I finally told the plum-throwers, one asked, “I assume we will be reading it to him as well?” I responded, “Why, of course! Get some paper, a pencil and write!”
On my 13th birthday, my two best friends and I thought it would be a real kick in the pants to incessantly prank my “boyfriend”. We behaved worse than a teen in heat with OCD and Parkinson’s. Over and over we called and said stupid shit like, “Is your refrigerator running?” Well, obviously, his dad got fed up and actually came to my house, because we weren’t too bright about being discreet. Friends were packed up and sent home, party was promptly canceled and I was sent to bed to worry all night long. What were my parents going to do to me? What were they going to take away? Obviously they took away my phone and my plans already made with friends. But, it ended up being worse than that. So.Much.Worse. My mother made me write a perfectly spelled, spaced, and composed letter to my boyfriend’s family. Worse? She drove my pitiful ass to their house, so I could read it to his mom, dad, and sister, too. I hated my mom for a long, long time after that one. I also thought a lot more carefully when I was tempted to prank someone again.
Obviously I have told my students an abridged version of that story. With wide-eyes, they asked me if I learned my lesson. I didn’t really have to answer, they knew.
My students know they will be held accountable. They also know that I love them and only hope for the very best for them. They know that I know they will mess up, and when that happens, I will help guide them to correcting their mistake until they no longer need me and can go alone. A little bit of worry, of feeling ashamed is needed to grow and become functioning members of society.
I hope the students who decided a plum made a great baseball, go to bed tonight thinking about how next time they will think before they act, and while throwing plums was one hell of a good time, they realize why in the middle of a throng of people, that was not a good idea.
And when my students move on to 4th grade, and on to middle school, high school, college, beyond, I hope they remember plums, righting their wrongs, and I hope they remember me.