Kick in the Pants or Second Chance?
F-Boy is a handful. He bounces off the walls of my classroom and can’t seem to control his mouth. He’s always chattering—and most of the words that tumble from his mouth are of the four-letter variety. He’s been suspended for inappropriate classroom behavior more than once this year.
Today we were playing a word game that used plastic tokens. After we finished playing and the tokens and cards were put away, F-Boy walked over to my desk with a handful of tokens that he had secreted away. He opened his hand, revealing a half-dozen little red disks.
“Please give them to me,” I said.
“No,” he said.
“Please give them to me,” I said again.
F-Boy stubbornly held on to the tokens.
“If you don’t hand them over to me right now,” I said, “I’ll call security.”
“Fine, be that way, butthead,” he said, as he put the tokens on my desk.
I said nothing, but sat down immediately and began filling out a referral form. F-Boy, still standing beside my desk, saw his name on the form.
“I’m sorry,” he pleaded.
“So am I,” I said. “You crossed the line. You don’t talk to me that way.”
“I said I was sorry.”
I kept filling out the form as F-Boy walked back to his desk, muttering, “I said I was sorry.”
He seemed at least semi-remorseful, so I decided to take a chance.
“F-Boy, step outside,” I said. We walked into the hall. “What you said was completely out of line. I should send you to the office. No student should ever speak to a teacher or any adult like that.”
“It just slipped out.”
“Precisely! It just slipped out—but you didn’t have to let it slip out. You are in control of your mouth. You have the power to keep things like that from slipping out.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“I’m trying to believe you. In the meantime, this is what I know: If I send you to the office, you’re going to be suspended again. You were suspended just a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to see that happen. You need to be here, not sitting at home, so here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to hold on to that referral. If you can make it through the rest of the period without shooting off your mouth, I’ll tear it up. But if you say anything out of line, I’m sending you to the office. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” mumbled F-Boy.
We walked back into the classroom, and he was almost a model student for the rest of the period.
Sometimes a kid needs a figurative kick in the pants—and sometimes he needs a second chance.