I’m sorry

You were in my 6th grade class over a decade ago. You were cool. You laughed and joked, fooled around with your friends, did your work (Mostly. With reminders…) We got along.

One day, you made a mistake. I wondered if I could ignore it until read aloud was over, but soon the whole class saw it. That’s when it really became a thing. A thing I had to deal with. I didn’t want to deal with it though, especially after I saw your face when you noticed me notice the hidden project you had in your hoodie.

I had to make a quick decision. There’s a teacher brain thing that happens. It’s a mode where you are still teaching or reading, or talking, but your brain is making a decision. Your brain is engaging in a very short, seconds-long debate. Mine probably went something like this:

He shouldn’t have done that. It could hurt someone. He’s not going to hurt someone. He’s just joking around. It’s a stupid joke, I need to take that away from him. Can we talk about this later at recess maybe? All the other kids see it now, I have to acknowledge it. The handbook is very clear on this. My gut says this isn’t really textbook handbook stuff. I’m supposed to do what the rules say to do. I don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is. Is this really zero tolerance stuff? What about that kid I read about in the news who was suspended for accidentally bringing a nail file to school? I have to follow the rules. But he doesn’t need a 10 day suspension for this, that’s overkill. Rules like that really do show kids that adults don’t have it together. But ugh. I have to do what I’m supposed to do. I really hope the principal can handle this in a nurturing way.

I took you into the hall. I took a deep breath. You already could barely look at me.

“I’m going to have to give this to the principal.” I said. I think I said it kindly. I hope I said something to show you I understood.

You looked so uncomfortable.

I probably made a face with my lips curled in and my nose scrunched up. It’s supposed to mean, “I know this sucks. But it’s going to be okay.”

It was a long walk down to the office and you trailed behind me the whole way, sobbing.

When we got there, I tried to explain the situation to the substitute vice principal:

I’m here because he needs to turn this in, and it isn’t okay that he made it. But he didn’t make it to hurt anyone. It’s not a weapon. I hope we can be reasonable with consequences.

She nodded. Told me she would take care of it, and to send you in.

The next day you started your 10 day suspension.

I didn’t take any data, and it was a long time ago. But, when you came back you were never really the same kid. There was less laughter, less chatting, less fooling around, but that wasn’t a good thing. There was also less engagement and fewer friends. We didn’t NOT get along after that, you and I. It’s just that the relationship was damaged.

Maybe you didn’t want to have anything to do with me because I didn’t fight hard enough for the grey in the situation, I didn’t advocate for you enough. Maybe you were just embarrassed about the vulnerability I saw in all of your sobbing.

Maybe it was all of the above and more.

I’m sorry.

I should have done better.

I’m really sorry.

2 thoughts on “I’m sorry

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