During two of my teaching preps today I was facilitating a biology test… again. (I hate how many tests we give.) In one of my preps, everything went according to plan, but that is like lightning striking and it wasn’t going to happen again. Inevitably then I had an issue in the other prep taking the test.
In the first of the two I had an accommodation issue which I didn’t know about ahead of time. I had to quickly find a staff member to read a test aloud to a student. A quick enough solution, but the issue happened when I was setting that teacher and student up in the lab next door. To do so I popped my head out from the test I was overseeing and into the lab to explain something to the teacher.
When I stepped back into the room there it was. A student in the front was sitting with his body turned completely around and signaling to a student at the back of the class. The expression of the student must have warned my front-row student because he whipped around to find me right in front of his desk. “Oh,” he said. It was more like “Oh [insert expletive]” on his face. I wanted to say something but his “Oh” had caused several students to look up and I didn’t want to distract from the test anymore, so I waited, walking the room until students had settled back in. Then very quietly I came round and said, “Shiloh please talk to me after class”. Then I made my way to the back of the class and whispered the same to Yuri.
Okay good, I found myself thinking. I’ve avoided any humiliation, so hopefully no power-struggle but now what am I going to do?
I paced. A quote from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing popped into my head.
“Brave punishments!” Tempting, I thought. But no, though, there should be some consequence.
As for “thinking,” I’m wasting too much of my time trying to devise a consequence. What do I really want to affect here? Character. The importance of trust.
Class was over and tests handed in. Yuri and Shiloh were in front of me. Everyone else had gone to lunch.
FRIDAY AFTER CLASS
Me: “Thanks for staying back for a minute guys. I wanted to talk to you about what happened when I stepped out of the room during the test. I totally get how tempting it is to communicate during a test when the teacher leaves, especially when it’s so quiet and –
Shiloh: Oh we weren’t talking or anything.
Shiloh: I mean it wasn’t to do with the test.
Shiloh: Anyway I was just responding to what Yuri said.
Yuri: Hey I didn’t –
Me: Guys, what I saw when I came in was both of you facing and communicating with each other.
Yuri: Yeah, but it had nothing to do with the test.
Me: That’s not what matters to me.
Shiloh: Pssshh. But if it doesn’t have anything to do with the test it doesn’t matter.
Me: those were my expectations about how each person conducts themselves during a test.
Me: So from what I saw, you both broke my trust and now you’re going to have to figure out how to rebuild it. I don’t want to take up any more of your lunch, so you guys figure that out and get back to me on Monday. See ya.
MONDAY AFTER CLASS (Ten minutes before the end of class, I asked them to hang back.)
Me: Hi guys, I’m so sorry to cut into your lunchtime again. I know that line gets long and quick! It’s just that neither of you got back to me about how you were going to rebuild my trust.
Yuri: Oh man, I completely forgot.
Me: That’s okay. I have so much to remember I forget things all the time. See over there, I forgot to hand back your papers!
Shiloh: I’m confused; I don’t know what you want me to do to build your trust. Should I stay after school or something?
Me: No I don’t want to take up your time. When I learn to trust somebody I guess it is because I learn I can rely on them. Does that make sense?
Yuri: Yeah, there are some friends I can trust for a ride and others I can’t.
Me: Good, so you get the idea. So go ahead to your lunch and let me know tomorrow how you are going to rebuild my trust.
TUESDAY BEFORE CLASS
Shiloh: Mrs. R?
Yuri: We figured out how to rebuild your trust
Shiloh: You know those papers you always forget to hand back to us?
Yuri: We’re going to remind you to pass them back.
Me: Oh! Great! It will be a load off to be able to rely on someone to remind me.
WEDNESDAY DURING CLASS
Shiloh: Mrs. R., don’t forget those papers!
Yuri: Can I pass them back?
Me: Sure! That would be really helpful!
Shiloh: May I help?
Me: Of course!
So much better than brave punishments, don’t you think? And they did all the thinking!