On Friday, a boy said something wildly disrespectful in my class. He muttered it quietly to his friends, and I was so stunned that I pretended not to hear it. I didn’t want the whole class to know what had happened, and I needed some time to process. But I stopped him on the way out the door, very angry, and he very convincingly denied everything. I sent him down to our superstar discipline woman, who got him to admit it and sent him back to apologize. He walked into my classroom, head down, opened his mouth to say sorry, and just started CRYING. He told me how sorry he was, how he’d just been trying to be funny for his friends, how he never meant to disrespect me, and how he’d never do it again. It was the best apology anyone has ever given me, and it was all I could do to stay stern and serious. Clearly I forgave him.
The kids are so tough and have been through so much (and can say such disrespectful things) that it’s easy to treat them as older than they are. But it’s moments like that, when the tough boy starts crying, that I’m reminded that they really are just kids. Eighth grade is starting to be old, but it isn’t old yet.