First, Learn Their Story
I was standing right there!
Jordan had to have known that I was going to see him. That I was going to bust him. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he had already made up his mind. Maybe there was more to the story.
Like an Avenger or Marvel superhero, he jumped off the bus and roundhouse punched another kid all one motion. But I was right there. And he wasn’t getting away with such random violence while I was in charge. Not on my watch!
I grabbed him by the wrist, probably tighter than I should have, and marched him and his victim into my office. Once we were in my office, with the door shut, I laid into him. I mean I let him have it.
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?
WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?!?
But Mr. Har…
WAIT TIL YOUR MOM HEARS ABOUT THIS?!?
But Mr. Harper.
YES, I’M READY TO HEAR WHAT MADE YOU SO MAD YOU FELT IT WAS OKAY TO JUMP OFF A BUS AND PUNCH SOMEONE AS HARD AS YOU COULD?!?
I finally gave him a chance to speak. To share his side of the story.
Mr. Harper, last night, that boy that I punched, snuck into the shed in my backyard and stole my bike. And now this morning, he’s telling everyone on the bus about it. Everyone was laughing at me. He thinks it’s funny.
I felt like an idiot. I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I had been him. I imagined someone stealing my SUV out of my driveway in the middle of the night. And then driving around my neighborhood the next day. Honking the horn, with his windows rolled down, bragging everyone in earshot that he had stolen my car.
I’d be livid.
I would have lost it.
I would’ve wanted to…
Let’s just say, I would have wanted to do exactly what Jordan had done.
Now, let me be clear. I am not advocating for violence. I’m just being honest. What would you have done if you were Jordan or if you had your car stolen and then…?
You get the point.
How often do we have higher expectations for our students — children — than we do for ourselves? I’m just sayin’. I know that I am guilty.
More importantly, how many times have we reacted to situations without knowing the full story? We assumed we knew the full story when we didn’t really have a clue.
Most of the time it is our students that fall victim to our assumptions. And we owe them better. They deserve to, at the very least, have their story heard.
Looking back on this event that took place almost ten years ago, I have one major regret. I know that I shouldn’t have gone off and lost my temper the way I did. That just wasn’t good. But that is not my major regret. No, my major regret was that I allowed myself to think the worst of Jordan. To judge him. To think that I was better. Shame on me.
I want you to know that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. And it’s not easy to admit them. But we must. I believe it is so important to display vulnerability. The sooner we begin sharing our imperfections with the people we love and the people we serve, the sooner they will stop thinking that they must be perfect.
*Jordan is not the student’s real name.
Below are links to several My Bad episodes in which educators made assumptions about their students before learning their stories. I think you’ll find them quite powerful. And again, you’ll see that you are not alone.
I Assumed I Was Helping My Student, I Was Very Wrong | Maggie Bolado
My Student Embarrassed Me, So I Embarrassed Him, Big Mistake | LaVonna Roth
Sometimes Growth Is Ugly Embarrassing and Hurtful | Don Wettrick
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