Friday, October 14, 2011

Teacher Guilt

Not me, but I'm sure that's what I looked like to my friend.
Yesterday, I sent the wrong boy to recess detention. 

We were late for lunch, I was irritated that he hadn't done his work, and I was frazzled by the ton of work sitting on my desk that needed to get done. He was so confused when I sent him, but I ignored his confusion and sent him off to another classroom to work through recess.   At the end of the day he came up to me and quietly asked why he had to go to recess detention.  We had a quick, stern conversation as we were headed out the door. Stern on my part. Quiet on his. It wasn't until after school yesterday that I really had time to think about it and realize I had sent the wrong boy.

This friend is the nicest little boy who was too polite to ask or argue why at the time.  I kept thinking about how confused he was about the whole thing.  I know it was a mistake, but I truly felt horrible about it.  I just kept thinking that I know I ruined this kid's day. More importantly, I knew I had lost a little of his trust.  Can I tell you it was all I could think about all night?

So, how to try and make this right?  The first thing I did this morning was sincerely apologize in front of the entire class.  I explained that I had mixed him up with another student.  I told him he had done nothing to earn recess detention, he was 100% right, I was 100% wrong, and I was sincerely sorry for the mix-up.  The obvious relief on my friend's face was amazing.  It showed me just how much this had bothered him and just how much my apology meant to him. He was very gracious and told me it was okay, he understood.  I still feel terrible about the entire thing, but I'm happy I was able to make amends. While I couldn't take it back, I also gave him a token to the treasure chest in the Principal's office and a homework pass. His smile became even a little bigger.

So, why post about this?  I'm sure some of you may think I made a big deal out of something small.  Perhaps, but it really bothered me.  I don't run a "the-teacher-is-always-right" kind of classroom.  I really try to approach teaching as a partnership between my friends and me.  When my friends trust in me to treat them fairly and respect their ideas, I get it back from them tenfold.  When they feel our classroom is a safe place emotionally, they are more willing to take risks in learning and it builds a strong, supportive classroom community.

It was also important for me to apologize to my friend in front of the entire class, not just in private.  It let him off the hook with the class, and it let the class know that I respected him (them!) enough to apologize when I was wrong. So, tonight I'm finally able to shake off some of the teacher guilt I've had for the past 24 hours.

Lesson learned:  Even after 15 years of teaching, I will still make mistakes!

So, you ever have one of those days?


  1. Of course! I think we all have at one time or did the right thing and he is and will be fine. Kids get over things quickly and he will still love you =)
    First Grade Blue SKies

  2. Jennifer, thanks for the kind words!

  3. Loved this! Made a similar mistake at the semester honor roll assembly- completely forgot a kid. WAY BIG OOPS! I ended up feeling so bad that during my apology, I cried in front of the class. As a class, we celebrated her award alone, and the kids actually got to their feet and gave a standing ovation. It was a very human time and it was good for all of us to have happened. I think it is important to see mistakes handled well- they're going to happen!

  4. Teachers Unleashed, thanks for your story. It's nice to know I'm not alone!! :-)