Monday, October 11, 2004

A Lesson in Honesty

I rarely sit down at my desk when I am in my classroom. That would be unthinkable with studio classes of 28 - 45 students. I buzz around from student, to storeroom, to computer, to student, to sink...you get the picture.

With large numbers of teenagers in one space I'm constantly watching out and listening for "something stupid". I define something stupid as the little pranks and bone-headed stunts kids do (remember?) that, when allowed to escalate, will trigger chaos.
I've gotten pretty good over the years at spotting the kid who is just about to bean a classmate with a broken crayon, or sensing when the good natured jibes about "your mamma" are about to get really nasty.

Friday, I looked up from the student's project I was discussing, just in time to see a folded paper missile fly across the room from its rubber band launcher, and smack a ninth grader in the arm. When I called out the shooters name, he looked at me square in the face and said,
"I didn't do it."
The rubber band was still in his hand, a little pile of the paper missiles was stacked in front of him, and I had, with my very own eyes, witnessed the attack.
Yet this boy had the nerve to keep insisting that it wasn't him.

I could feel a teachable moment coming on.

I took the opportunity to talk to my class about honesty and respect.

Most people can relate to the experience of being caught doing something negligent, or stupid, or just plain wrong.
In order to avoid embarrassment, or a reprimand, they lie.
Some people will lie in order to gain something.
To gain admiration they make up a story. To land a job they fabricate a resume. In search of adventure they remove a wedding ring.

At first glance, lying seems to be a rather positive experience.
It works.

Unless you are the person being lied to.
I asked my students how they felt when they discovered they'd been lied to.

"Angry", "Hurt", "Like they think I'm a fool.", "Disrespected", "Unable to trust."

"How do you feel about the person who lied to you?" I asked.

"They aren't really your friend.", "You can never believe them."

Throughout the discussion the boy with the rubberband sat silent.

Finally I asked him, "So, what do you think?"

"What do I think?"
He paused, "I think I'm sorry."

Good answer.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Keep doing what you're doing, it sounds like you're doing it right.

Lou said...

Another lesson learned that is more important than a standardized test.

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