After that passionate imaginary letter I wrote to one of my students on Tuesday, a few questions came up about how I approached the situation.
Did your administration support you through this decision?
In a word, yes. Though I knew I was right and I thought about my decision clearly, I still consulted with fellow teachers and administration, and I got the right response. I didn’t have to ask my principal because the assistant principal was enough. I know a lot of my fellow bloggers find themselves in more dire straits, but I also notice a lot of principals who blog that say I’m somehow stifling the young man’s creativity and individuality. The next three questions should address that.
By not letting him go to the trip, aren’t you promoting a perpetual cycle of failure for him?
In some ways I understand the question, but in realistic terms, no. I believe I was rather clear about the chances I’ve given him, and if he can’t respect that, then what happens when we’re actually outside and I’m responsible for his well-being and safety on the subway or anywhere else? Furthermore, what kind of message does that send to the kids who do behave well and make a decent effort to do well socially and academically? I have students who once messed up but improved significantly in all the major areas and they’re getting a chance to go on trips, so for this student, that’s not the case. He hasn’t been an exemplary student, and there have to be consequences.
Don’t you think you’re pushing your kid so hard to fit a mold that you’ll squash his “creativity and independent spirit”?
Again, a somewhat valid question, but one that I’m more than willing to squash. (I’m not sure where either of these qualities comes into the argument of whether or not the student deserves a trip or not, but whatever.) If we think of the most creative and independent spirits of our time, I can make a pretty safe assumption that, in order for them to break the rules, they must learn and master them. Every rapper had a favorite rap song they knew every word to, and wrapped their head around that favorite style until they found their own niche. Same goes for artists, and even teachers. This student needs to learn the rules and understand why we make those rules before he goes off and becomes an independent high school student and eventually college. That’s the difference between someone who’s self-reliant and one who’s a recluse.
Also note that I consider myself rather creative and more often than not allow for creativity and independence in my classroom, but in a constructive and positive manner. We also need to find ways to hone that. The most talented athletes may not always be the most successful, but the most successful athletes have an excellent mix of talent and discipline. Then again, you’d have to have read my blog for more than one post, or actually read the whole post to see that.
Isn’t using a trip or any “escape from school” demeaning the purpose of school itself?
Let’s flip that question on its head then: do you think we should have trips at all then? And if so, then are you taking everyone? Again, just from yesterday’s experience with my students, I have a pretty good idea of what the answers to those questions are. I know how trips often help develop the civil skills of my students, and helps me gauge how much they’ve grown socially as well as academically. When, for instance, I can take them to the park and they can interact with their teachers and fellow students without the confines of the school building, it changes things a little bit. Unless you a) find yourself really uncomfortable with the group of students who you’re trying to take out, 2) your group of students don’t merit getting a trip, especially one on your own dime or 3) are a bit of a hermit / curmudgeon, then I can’t see anyone trying to discredit teachers for taking their students on a class trip.
Then again, I think my reasoning was pretty clear, and for people who insist on playing the devil’s advocate on these questions have to come correct. I’m not asking for the children to be perfect, but here’s the order:
1. He cut class.
2. He begs for trip.
3. I say, “If you cut class again, you don’t get this privilege.”
4. He cuts class again.
5. I decline his invitation.
Done. Respond as you please.
jose, who has a few more trips to go on …