Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #156
In Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he tells this story -
He was on a subway car packed with passengers. He saw a father with his face in his hands, obviously exhausted. The father had two kids with him who were out of control. They were running around and carrying on, annoying everyone in the car.
Covey too became annoyed and wondered why this father didn’t get control of his kids who were making the ride horrible for everyone in the car.
Just then the father took his face out of his hands, rubbed his eyes and then spoke to Covey. He said, “I’m sorry. We are on our way back from my wife’s funeral. The kids just don’t know what to do with themselves.”
That was a paradigm shift for Covey. His anger and frustration instantly turned to compassion and empathy.
I think the best example of this came from an essay I read several years ago from one of my sophomores. Back then he had moved her from the cities. He wrote about how in elementary school there was this kid who was bigger than everyone else. For the first part of the year, they were good friends and got along great. However, in the middle of the school year, the kid became a totally bully. He would pick on other kids, the author in particular. The big kid made the author’s life a living hell. All winter he lived in dread of this kids. Finally spring came and the school had a spring break.
During break the author found himself walking through an alley behind the kid’s house. He looked closely and realized no one was home. The author quickly grabbed as many large rocks as he could and began to shatter as many of the windows in the kid’s house as he could hit.
In his fit of rage (and revenge) he did thousands of dollars of damage.
When school resumed the truth came out - the kid’s father was dying from cancer. The kid never told anyone so he had no way to deal with the pain and anger he felt at watching his father die so he took it out on the other kids.
Worse yet, the family spent all their money on health care costs and needed help to cover the cost of new windows.
The author was heartbroken. He never told anyone what he did (the essay itself was his first confession of it) that he was the leader of the fundraising efforts. He went door to door in every neighborhood he could reach. He donated as many of his toys as his parents would let him.
The author learned a very painful, but important lesson. Just because the other kid was being a bully, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a larger problem or more to the kid than that.
How often do we judge our students too soon?
I’m just as guilty as anyone. In fact, I’m probably guilty of the reverse of this more - where I am willing to give kids breaks that they don’t really deserve. But I’d rather be on that end of the spectrum than never offering grace to anyone.