Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 10 2012

Rotten Orange Trap

“Miss, somebody put a rotten orange in my backpack.”


As a teacher, you probably know that moment – something mean has happened to one of your shy, sweet kids, and you need to handle it. Unfortunately, you have no idea who did it or who to start asking, and your “Someone needs to step forward here” comments aren’t going to get kids to turn themselves in. You feel useless, and the poor kid pleading with you for justice is just making you feel guilty. Never a pretty moment.


That has happened to me a million times, but this time something magical happened. The naughty kid in my previous class had done me a huge favor: as he stormed out into the hall to throw a tantrum, he decided to take my hand sanitizer with him. And he left it there.


I took the orange out of her backpack with a paper towel, held it delicately at arm’s length, and in my best concerned-mama voice said, “Hey guys, this orange is pretty moldy. If you touched it, can you please make sure to go outside and use the hand sanitizer? I don’t want you to wait… I’m sure this is full of nasty diseases.” And just like that, six of my boys scurried out of their seats and into the hallway.




From there it was easy. I told them that either someone could admit to putting the orange in her backpack, or they could all do the consequences together. Then I left them alone in the hallway to convince the culprit to come clean. In a couple minutes, the kid who did it was back in my room, apologizing to the girl. It was such a nice feeling to see her face when she realized the situation had been handled.



Honestly, I was delighted with myself for getting a kid to admit to something that no one had seen him do. As the boys came back in the room, I couldn’t helpĀ  but grin at them and ask them if they weren’t at least a little impressed with how I’d done that. As they processed what had happened, even the kid in trouble started laughing. “Yeah, Miss, you did a good job. You got us pretty good!”


2 Responses


  2. Lucas

    Nice! Brilliant, indeed. This is one kind of smart and savvy ‘manipulation’ that I definitely appreciate and wholeheartedly support if it works to catch the little rotten fruit culprits, get the problem solved, and make them laugh in the end. By the way, on a totally different note, it would be cool to see your description or just a simple list of “what is 6th grade math,” like you did for the 8th grade curriculum of your first couple years.

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