Well I said it, they aren’t…
They talk when they shouldn’t, they do things they shouldn’t, they make mistakes. No matter how many times I beg of them to “do the right thing and make great choices,” they don’t always… and I couldn’t be happier. Truth is, in the simplicity of it all, I am just like my students; and I smile every day knowing that with these imperfections, we are mirror images of each other.
“Make mistakes,” I told my students on the first day of school, “it’s the only way we grow as people and achieve great things.” Mistakes are what have made me in to the person I am today.
Yesterday, I left my class in the hands of a guest teacher so that I could visit another school district for some educational technology collaboration. It never fails that my students make some of their larger mistakes when I’m not there. When returning to school, I found out that one of my boys had made some particularly poor choices in my absence. An hour into our school day, I quietly mentioned to him that he and I would need to chat later. As I made my way over to work with another student, I heard him quietly respond by saying, “I know, Miss Sickler… I messed up pretty bad didn’t I?” I looked back at him, smiled, and slowly nodded my head in agreement.
I didn’t revisit the conversation until later in the afternoon. I wanted it to marinate with him for a little bit. Time would allow him to collect his thoughts and be present in our conversation with rationalization, not with anger or a defense mode. When I finally sat with him to talk, I let him carry the conversation, asking simple questions for clarification. Not only did my student admit his faults, he provided himself with a very reasonable consequence. Did I need to yell at him? Take away privileges from him? Not in the slightest; and words cannot describe how proud I am of this student.
Do I think he will screw up again and make more mistakes, some even bigger than his most recent? Absolutely! Don’t we all? If your last mistake was eating paste decades ago in primary grades, well then you deserve a medal of honor… or placed in an institution for overlooking all of the mistakes you made last year, last week, and an hour ago.
Our students don’t need another critic, they need someone who will accept them for imperfections, embrace them, and encourage them.