Like It Never Even Happened

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 09
  • 2010

You have a student that’s rough. If you’re unfortunate and like the majority of us, you have more than one. This is a student who just keeps pushing your buttons and making life difficult for you. Or maybe this is a student who doesn’t do anything. That kind of passive aggressive behavior is taxing, too. This could be a student who is obnoxious, acting far younger than she should. Maybe it’s that student who you always have to tell to take off the hat or to sit down and get started. It’s the student who acts like he doesn’t get it even though this is the eleventh time you’ve given this type of assignment. It’s the kid who uses “I was absent” as the excuse for missing work, even though she never checked in with you to find out what was missed. Perhaps it’s the kid who throws books around like so much garbage, never cleaning up after himself. It’s the one who makes all those comments under her breath that undermine everything you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to build up. It’s the one who demonstrates all of those behaviors and more.

There’s really only one thing you can do: act like it never even happened.

When tomorrow rolls around, pretend it’s the first day you met. Nothing from yesterday will impact that smile on your face and your willingness to help. As you move up and down the rows checking work, act surprised when he doesn’t have it even though he has never had the homework. Disappointment should cross your face if she exhibits any of those behaviors that drive you mad. Hit reset every single day. Show your shock when that student does anything less than perfect work.

Because anything else you do will be predictable. Get angry and that’s the desired reaction. Turn in a referral and the kid goes back through the system. Counsel him and you sound like adults do to Charlie Brown and the gang. She’s seen that response before. He earned that reaction less than an hour ago. All other behaviors will be some variety of what the student wants or expects from you. Starting over every day, that’s just odd.

It’s hard to give that many chances to start over. To offer that cookie over and over, only to be refused, sometimes violently, that’s a rough gig. Swallow your pride, pick up the cookie, and offer it again. Do it with a smile on your face for that kid who beat the cookie down yesterday. Treat that kid just like your favorite student. Do that and you give what the student has not had in the past. Do that and you make it obvious what the right path is. Do that often enough and from the beginning of the year and you make it hard for students to choose any other road.

That’s all you can do. It never even happened. This is the first day.


1. AtlTeacher says:

[3/10/2010 - 7:31 pm]

I love this! It’s just what I needed today.

2. Todd says:

[3/11/2010 - 3:34 pm]

Thanks Atl! So how did it go? Did anyone take that cookie today or did it just get knocked out of your hand again?

3. AtlTeacher says:

[6/27/2010 - 11:59 am]

Yep, I offered the cookie often. To one student in particular, often he took it and often he didn’t. Nonetheless, through my frustration, I’m still convinced that unconditional empathy has to be the answer every single day.

4. iPads, Newspapers, and the Internet « The Xplanation says:

[10/19/2012 - 1:55 pm]

[…] Like It Never Even Happened: Thoughts On Teaching […]