I caught one of my students copying her vocabulary list from another student this morning. I passed her in the hallways and leaned over to look at what she was doing as she huddled against her locker. From a distance, I could see the vocabulary sheet and had a hunch she was doing what I explicitly tell my students not to.
As I leaned over, she looked up at me, pen in hand about to copy the definition and synonym for “dismally.” All I did was look at her and raise my eyebrows in disapproval. She froze, looked disappointed and ashamed, and I moved on.
It was just before class, first period. In the short walk back to my classroom, I had to make a decision how I would receive her in class in a few minutes. Teachers are constantly thinking about how their actions will affect their students, so in this case, I was thinking about whether my eyebrows had done enough or if I needed to follow up with a conversation.
My student walked in with her head bowed and took a seat near the back of the room. I paid no mind to the fact that minutes before I had seen her crumbled up on the floor with another student’s work, and carried on with the rest of my class. We read our short story, talked about vocabulary, and did another activity planned.
At the end of class, when I returned to my desk to input attendance, she approached me.
“Miss Coggio,” she began. ” I am sorry about what happened. I swear to you I have never done that before. It was the first time copying anything and it was the first time I was caught.”
I looked at her, knowing she was most likely telling the truth. “It’s called Karma,” I said. “It gets you everytime.”
“I am an honest person,” she said, and I told her I already knew that and that I appreciated her apology, giving her a warning not to do it again.
“I know. I won’t. When that Karma thing is done, I will never do that again.”
She is a good kid who I think I probably scared. I have a pretty decent Disappointed Teacher Look and, I’m not going to lie, it really works. 7th graders are much more affected by my actions than my high school students were, which is probably why I have to be much more aware of thinking about how I respond to them.
At lunch, after a full morning of classes, I sat on the patio with my curry caesar salad (don’t ask) and jello. One of my students, a funny boy with a moppy head of hair, walked past drinking a juice. We caught eyes and he repeated a phrase I had used a week or so ago in class when my kids had been ridiculously intelligent and I was feeling excited to work with them: “You rock my world,” he said as he passed me. I burst out laughing, especially because I was seated with some older teachers and because I think my student didn’t really realize that those teachers were there.
I have some funny, funny kids.