September 30, 2009

To the child who stole from me;

When I caught you with your hands in my desk drawer, I got angry.  When I asked what you were doing and a series of lies poured  frantically out of your mouth one after another, I got furious.

Don't you understand that I give everything to you and your classmates?  90% of my day I spend with you, worrying about you, planning things to do with you, or talking about you.  I spend my money and time all on YOU.  You have become a part of my life.  I do everything I can to help you learn and grow both academically and emotionally.

I trust you.  I put books out in the room and let you borrow them and take them home.  I leave my purse in a cabinet.  I have stickers and candy and a camera in my desk drawer.  I leave my laptop in the room when you are here. I trust you not only because you are a child, but because we are a team. 

Then, when your hands are in my desk taking something of mine and I see you in the act of stealing and yet you have the guts to lie to my face about what you did, everything is turned upside down.  I sent you out in the hall to sit because I couldn't look at you right then.  I felt disgusted.  I felt angry.  I felt...betrayed.  By you.  A little girl.  I trusted you and your classmates.   

I let you wait until the end of the day before we talked.  I admit, part of me wanted you to think about what you did.  But another part of me knew that if I talked to you before then, I'd yell.  After school, I wanted you to tell me why you did what you did.  Yet again, the excuses poured from your mouth as fast as the tears down your cheeks: "I found it," "I was going to put it back," "I didn't mean to," "I didn't do it," "I was borrowing it."  You couldn't explain why.  I sent you home to explain what you did to your parents, knowing that that would be punishment enough.

The next day, you apologized.  We chose a logical consequence.  You accepted it.  You looked at me, still teary, and I saw how young you are.  You became not just a child who stole but a child who would do anything to earn my trust back.  When I told you that you had broken my trust, I meant it.  When I told you we could move on, I meant that too.

I am still your teacher.  I still care deeply about you.  I still will make your education my priority and still lose sleep, worrying that I'm not doing enough for you.  We will forget about this.  I am not angry anymore.  But I will still wonder sometimes if leaving my ipod in my desk is a mistake.  I will still wonder sometimes if I should keep better track of which books you and your classmates take home at night, and check that you brought them back.

You reminded me that it's as important to teach morals and character in school as reading and math.  Sometimes it's easier to say, "Oh, the kids will learn that at home.  It's not my job."  But what happens to the kids that don't learn those things at home?  If it's not my job, then whose is it?

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