A Hard Lesson

I often say that one of the reasons I became a teacher, as opposed to a brain surgeon or an air traffic controller, is that if I screw up nobody gets hurt. Of course, that is not completely true. A bad teacher can do a lot of damage – not as immediate or dramatic as the brain surgeon or air traffic controller, but damage nonetheless.
I did something in class today which worked, I think, but I kind of wondered, when I saw how well it worked, if maybe I hadn’t crossed a line. Here’s the situation: Two boys in the class, I’m not going to use names, always sit at the back of the room and talk and make trouble. They’re bright enough, and sometimes even funny, but for the most part they are a big pain in the ass. (4th grade, about 10 years old)
So, in the beginning of the class today, I made them move. That was necessary anyway, because I’d decided to divide the class into 3 teams of 5 for a game, and needed to move one of them over to a smaller team. But, that wasn’t quite enough. In fact, it just meant they had to talk louder.
Anyway, the game was “Which animal is the best?” so I’d give flashcards to one student from each team and they’d come to the front of the class and explain why the ant was the best, or the chicken, or the sheep, or whatever was on their card. Simple stuff. One girl gave a totally impassioned argument for her animal, I forgot which one it was, so I let her know that she’d won the point – but I was penalizing the team one point because little motormouth in the back wouldn’t shut up.
Well, my recriminations have never had any effect but when she turned on him – and turn on him she did – he crumbled, he caved, he wilted under the onslaught, and was reasonably co-operative for the rest of the hour.
But, I’m not really sure if that’s fair of me – to use the kids as enforcers, to interfere in their relationships, in their world. Because the world of children and the world of grown-ups are, as anyone who has ever come close to the borderline will agree, completely separate worlds and no adult really knows what’s going on with the kids.
But, I’m probably overthinking this. He will undoubtedly continue to be a cocky, little shit, because I’m sure he enjoys the role, and she will continue to be a class star, and they will find their places in life. Nobody died.

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