One of my students walked into class a few minutes late this morning and handed me a tardy pass from the office. I took the pass, and in a casual glance, something I rarely do, I realized that the pass had been issued a couple of weeks ago instead of this morning. To keep this morning’s tardy from counting against him (excessive tardies lead to a revocation of parking), the student tried to excuse the tardy through the use of an old pass.
I invited the student into the hall where he immediately admitted his mistake. We walked next door to the administrator’s office and completed a discipline referral since the assistant principal was not in his office. When another teacher asked me if I needed help, I responded, “No, I’m just really disappointed.”
When the student and I returned to class, I noticed that the young man started writing a note, a note that he handed to me on the way out of class. He didn’t say anything that I can remember as he handed it to me, but I took the note and immediately said, “You made a mistake, but I still love you.”
I later read the note, and it is one of the most poignant letters of apology I have ever received. In the letter he told me that he was worried about the punishment he would receive but he was more worried about the fact that he had disappointed me: “My juvenile attempt let you down. My juvenile attempt disappointed a teacher that cares for me so much. I am ashamed of myself and can think of few things that could hurt you more.”
When I had time later in the day, I pulled out stationery and wrote the student a note to let him know how much I appreciated his note and that I respect him for taking the time to apologize after he made such a mistake. I gave it to a student aide to take to the student so he would have it before going home.
I don’t know how the administrator will punish the student, but as far as I am concerned the situation is over. The student made a mistake, owned up to it, and now we forget it.
Oh that we would never make mistakes, but how I love a student who makes no excuses, blames no one but himself, doesn’t try to minimize what he did, and faces his punishment. An incident that could have blown up or could have caused me tremendous anxiety ends quickly and amicably.
All kids, even the best of kids, make mistakes. Most of the time they admit the mistake, and we move on.
It was a good day.
As I got into my car to drive home, NPR played the Hallelujah Chorus (Handel’s birthday).