Compliance Was Not Worth the Price of Admission


I lost it.  I lost my cool today.  I didn't yell.  I didn't raise my voice.  I did something much worse.  I insulted a student.

I'm not one to lose my cool at school.  I’m sad to say that usually happens when I get home.  Today was different.  I had a rough morning getting my kids up and ready.  My school computer was acting up.  And several students were shouting things across the classroom during the morning announcements.  That shouting was the last straw.

I went over and stood between the two shouting girls' tables.  I should've made eye contact and pressed my index finger against my lips.  I should've looked at them with the teacher eye and slowly moved my head back and forth.  I should've whispered, "No talking during announcements."  I should've.  But I didn't.

Instead, I went for the easy kill.  I did something that would make me feel good for about half a second and terrible for the rest of the day.  I used my tongue as a weapon.  I insulted two nine-year-old girls.  I said something to the effect of, "Did you release your brain into the wild this weekend?  Why are you shouting during the announcements?"  Wow.  It's even worse when I type the words out.  Way to go, teacher of the year…

I called the girls over to my desk when the announcements were over.  In earshot of the class, I apologized to my students.  I told them that I was very sorry for saying that to them.  They should not have been hollering, but I should have handled that much better. 

One girl said, "That's okay, Mr. Stortz.  We'll do better tomorrow."  The other girl looked at me for a moment.  For the first time I noticed tears pooling near the bottom of her red-rimmed eyes.  Her eyes met mine.  She nodded and went back to her seat as she wiped her tears with the back of her hand.  I wanted to crawl into the bottom of my file cabinet and hide until lunch.  Then I wanted to crawl into my lunch bag and hide until tomorrow.  I’ve rarely felt worse in my years of teaching.

Well, I got what I wanted- silence during the announcements.  But at what price?  Their compliance was not worth the price of admission.  I took out a huge withdrawal from those girls today.  It's going to take a while to get us back to ground zero.  If I truly believe that great learning happens in the context of great relationships, then I've got some work to do on these relationships.  I'd better get started.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
-Proverbs 18:21