The Joys of Becoming a Meanie

I have a favorite student. I know people say you shouldn’t, but I do. At least, he’s my favorite sometimes. Like when he acts all cool and reassures me during class that it’s okay that my voice sounds like a man today or affirms that I should not erase the surprisingly decent drawing I drew on the board. I like that he’s so real with me. I’ll ask him who his favorite teacher is, and he won’t say me, he’ll say, “Andy Teacher.” (All nonchalantly, as if the idea of saying me never occurred to him.) Then I’ll ask why, and we’ll have a real conversation about it. That is so much more fun than students who suck up.

Well, I made my favorite student cry today. In fact, he threw a HUGE fit.

the coolest 5-year-old i've ever met (even in that ridiculous outfit)
the coolest 5-year-old i’ve ever met (even in that ridiculous outfit)

Why? Because I sent him to Pink Island, the baby class. (It’s kind of like getting sent to the principle’s office at our school.) He got 3 X’s for interrupting me and playing games during class and BAM, that was his punishment. I’ve punished him this way once before, and that time he acted all cool about it, (but came back sobbing afterwards). I was shocked he acted like such a baby this time, but maybe he really was traumatized by the last time?

Honestly, it still makes my heart race every time I have to send a kid to Pink Island. Inside, part of my heart is breaking at the fear in their eyes and the humiliation they are rebelling against. But today, I actually wished the Pink Island teacher had been meaner to this kid. I love him, I really do, but he needs to know that I am the boss. He needs to learn to respect me better.

In the end, I decided it was okay that the Pink Island teacher wasn’t that harsh, because the horrendous trip TO Pink Island was probably punishment enough. After I described the way I had to literally lift this boy out of his seat, carry him through the hallway, down the stairs, and down the other hallway with him screaming, kicking, and grabbing anything he could to impede our progress, one of my coworkers said, “Yeah, good.”

I was surprised at his response. I had just been expecting some sympathy, but his words helped me appreciate the rather exhausting trip down to Pink Island.

“It’s good that he has that fear.”

Yeah, that’s right, it is good. I may be a generally “nice” teacher, and all the kids at school may be able to tell I’m nice as soon as they take one look at me. But today proved that my kids do have some healthy fear of me. YES.

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Elizabeth is an American living in South Korea who believes in destiny, miracles, and living life intentionally. She holds to simple faith in a complex world, values the beauty of the everyday, and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is always learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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