Follow-Up

Dear Terrence,

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times more: nine times out of ten, when you get in trouble, it’s not what you originally did that gets you in trouble but how you react to teacher redirection that causes the issues. Today was no different: had you simply moved when I directed you to, things would have ended right there. Instead, you decided to turn it into a battle of wills. By insisting that I tell you why I wanted you to move, you put yourself on the same level as I, or at least tried, suggesting that my authority depends upon the legitimacy of the instructions I give you. By asking “Why” — and not just asking it, but asking it time after time after every calm repetition of the direction I provided — you suggested to everyone that you might move if you think the instructions were justified, and if you didn’t think they were justified, you would simply refuse. In other words, it was a direct challenge to my authority as a teacher.

After your week of excessive talking, if you didn’t know why I wanted you to move, I would be surprised if you didn’t know why I wanted you to move. The fact that you continually asked “Why?” — and in an increasingly disrespectful tone — suggested to me that you were never going to move anyway. It was a losing battle, and it was sucking time from the class and doing serious damage to the classroom atmosphere, and that’s why I decided to end it then and there by requiring that you get out your school-provided discipline card for me to notate the incident.

“Oh, the card!” you replied sarcastically. “I’m scared! I’m terrified! The card!

And at that moment, young man, you sealed your fate. Previously, you’d simply been disrespecting me and my authority. But mocking the school-wide discipline program, you disrespected the entire school, the entire administration, and the entire teaching staff that came up with a school-wide plan to help you and students like you change some of the damaging behaviors you and students like you so clearly and brazenly exhibit. These are behaviors that will destroy your future if you do not make a serious attempt to change them, and our school discipline plan is intended to help prevent that, to help you see in an on-going basis the negative (and positive) behaviors you’re showing. And so it is not intended to scare or frighten or even punish: it’s intended to help. But you showed that you don’t want help, that you’re set the way you are, that you see a bright future with your behaviors. Ironically, it was that very short-sightedness that we’re trying to help you correct.

Sad because of the disciplinary referral I now have to write,
Your Teacher.

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