Sometimes reminders come when you least expect them. Such was the situation today as a single comment from a student made me re-think a seemingly simple situation. This year I have moved into the new role of teacher/librarian, and one of my first orders of business was to change the feel of the library. I wanted a coffee shop feel to the area and as such I purchased several pieces of furniture to add to the environment. One of the purchases I made that has been a big hit with the boys is the antique chess set. The pieces are hand crafted and have a nice weight to them, it has been a real drawing point and the kids are playing games almost daily. Two weeks ago a boy decided to check out the set and play with the pieces, however he began getting rough with the pieces, cracking them together in a way that could have chipped or completely broke them. I saw what the boy was doing and became very frustrated. I let him know by reprimanding him, telling him the pieces are both expensive and fragile. He apologized, stopped what he was doing and got back to work. Fast-forward to a week later and 3 girls were taking the chess set out of the library to use as a prop in a film they were making. One of the girls decided to carry the chess board with the pieces still on top and while carrying it she was being silly, tilting it from side to side causing the pieces to tip over. As I saw her do this I simply remarked, "girls, be careful with that, it's expensive". It was not until this morning that I found out the same boy I reprimanded earlier was in the library when I spoke to the girls. How did I find this out? This morning I overheard him talking to his buddies. He said, "hey, do you remember when Mr. Mellesmoen gave me crap for knocking over the chess pieces?" His friends acknowledged that they did which prompted him to continue. "Well the girls did the same thing and he didn't even care. How fair is that?" He did not realize I was in the library until I said, "hey, who ever said I was fair?" The boys' laughter was a mix of amusement and embarrassment.
As I replayed this over and over in my head, I realized that even though the boy did make a poor choice, I handled it wrong. It's my goal that every student feels they are an important, valued member of our school. What I inadvertently did in this situation was tell this boy I valued the girls more than I valued him. When I had a chance I talked to the boy one on one and apologized for how I handled the situation and promised (tongue firmly in cheek of course) that next time I'd be really mean to the girls...he thought that was pretty funny. However, the look on his face told me he got the message, and when he thanked me and said, "don't worry 'bout it Mr. M" I knew things were okay.
Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride a bit!