I’m pretty comfortable “letting kids have it,” as a teacher. Most of a time it doesn’t take a lot out of me to give a students a “teacher look,” or to explain sternly to a student why what he said was inappropriate. I’m getting more and more comfortable stopping class to unpack comments related to gender and race that need addressing. However, I really hate giving out consequences like sending a kid to the principal’s office.
The difficulty has led me to do figure out ways to create relationships and do all I can do to avoid getting to a situation in which I have to dole out serious consequences. However, sometimes it just needs to happen. It rarely feels good to punish a kid, sometimes it feels awful, but when it’s what is best for the student you got to do it.
It’s easier to back off and just give that student another chance. It’s takes courage and strength to follow through. It’s part of the job I love, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
As we worked through the lyrics of “Greensleeves,” my 5th graders started become appalled by the what was being done the narrator. I had printed out eight verses of “Greensleeves,” and after working through the vocabulary we worked through each verse, trying to put together the story that was being told in the song.
“So the narrator was giving all of these things to this person and he loved her, and she dumped him and didn’t want him back?!? She’s awful!” exclaimed one of my 5th graders as we got to the end of the last verse. I asked the class so who was on the narrator’s side and who was on the other person’s side. All of the students raised their hands expressing support of the narrator.
“Okay, let’s take a step back. Can anyone see in the lyrics, why the other person might not be such a bad guy”? I asked. After a pause, I explained, “look deeper, what did he give to her?” Then the students started talking about how every expression of his love was materialistic. I explained how it’s nice to get stuff from people we love, but sometimes what we really want is to spend time with people. Maybe, this person was being nice and asked for space in a polite way and the other narrator wasn’t getting the clue. Some of the students in the class seemed to relate to this point a little bit too well.
Then we voted again. People were a lot less confident about the vote and class was split about half for the narrator and half for his love interest. Then I concluded:
This is what’s so great about a good break-up song. It’s not clear. It has two sides and you can make arguments for both sides. You are going to find in life that this is how break-ups work, there are always two sides and it’s almost never 100% one person’s fault.