As the bell sounded, they couldn’t untie their laces, so they returned to class still connected at the feet. They each removed the offending shoe and spent 10 minutes with one stocking-foot while their patient teacher diligently worked out the knots.
Today H brought home a note he was instructed to write after he and the same friend were warned to stop picking each other up on the playground and trying to ride on each other’s shoulders.
“I understand it was a little bit dangerous now that they explained it to us,” he wrote.
“Now I need to learn how to have fun without going koo-koo crazy…I made a dumb desition.” (Spelling his, but I like his phonetics.)
It’s hard to get mad at an 8-year-old who puts it that way. I talked to him about how even though I’m sure they’re both very strong and couldn’t possibly accidentally drop each other on their heads or break an arm, the school just wants to make sure no one gets hurt. He said he wouldn’t do it again, and I signed the note.
Apparently he has written a few other notes to us this year when he and a classmate acted up. Once, he told me, a playground wrestling match went a little too far. Another time, a playmate tripped over his foot and thought he’d stuck it out on purpose. I hadn’t heard from the teacher about any of that or the shoelace escapade and wondered whether I should get in touch with him.
“NO!” he said emphatically. “We worked it out and made up.”
I happened to run into Mr. P after school one day, so I asked him whether H had been misbehaving.
“Just stupid boy stuff,” this veteran teacher told me with a laugh.
I love that he gets that. That boys will be boys, and that smart as these third-graders may be, they are kids after all. He expects a lot from them academically – and they excel. Their teacher holds them to high standards. But they are squirrelly. They are still developing their sense of right and wrong and learning about the consequences of their actions.
Some teachers would yell at the students, call parents about these antics, and keep the kids inside at recess. Instead, Mr. P encourages them to solve their own problems. Each writes a letter about what happened, then they share their notes with each other to understand the other’s perspective. If they’ve had a disagreement, they apologize and shake hands. The notes stay in their folders at school unless there is a pressing reason to send them home.
Can you imagine if we as adults undertook such a simple exercise every time we felt slighted or misunderstood or pushed around? If I could have had a sit-down like that with a few coworkers, mean girls, and ex-boyfriends, it might have eased a lot of hurt and stress.
It would have meant to a lot to hear from the pretty girl who made fun of me that she was sorry and didn’t mean to hurt my feelings but was just trying to fit in herself.
And it would be nice to rationally tell my husband “I’m sorry I snapped at you when you asked when dinner would be ready. I was overwhelmed and didn’t realize you just wanted to know if you had time to walk the dog.”
When one of us slips up or gets carried away next time, Mr. P’s system could be worth a try.
I mean, don’t we all go a little koo-koo crazy every once in a while?