being a teacher, discipline, discussion, students

But Wait, You Didn’t Tell Me I Wasn’t A Disappointment

Today I was embarrassed, so utterly left without words and ashamed that I didn’t know what to say.  A child did this to me and I deserved every moment of it.  That child and I had had an interaction more than 3 weeks ago where I had scolded him for improper video camera usage.  The task had been simple; film a short film telling me everything you know about a topic.  This child had decided to goof off and create bloppers and then forgotten to delete the evidence.  In my best teacher voice, I had reprimanded him and told him how very disaapointed in him I was.  I had then left it at that and dismissed him thinking nothing more of it.

Today, as he walked down the hallway, I stopped him to ask him about a rumor I had heard and whether it was true.  When he affirmed its validity I couldn’t help but tell him I was surprised he had been involved, that it seemed out of his nature to make such choices.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, Mrs. Ripp, I thought you didn’t care because you were disappointed in me.”  Confused, I asked him what he meant.  “You told me you were disappointed in me back in social studies…” 

And then it all clicked; this child had never been told that I was no longer disappointed.  This child, whom I care for deeply, had never been let off the hook but instead I had left him dangling, wondering where our relationship stood.  I stammered out a hurried reply about not being disappointed any longer and then walked away ashamed.  How could I have left him to think that for so many weeks?  How many times have I done this before?  How many other kids assume that I view them unfavorably because of how they have been spoken to?

So as I sit here defeated, I vow to change, to speak to these kids and then follow up.  When we use such heavy sentences as “I am disappointed in you” do we ever come back to tell them that we no longer feel that way?  Do we repair the void we create with our words or do we just let it grow?  As for this kid, I wrote him a note saying I was sorry.  What will you do if this happens to you?

7 thoughts on “But Wait, You Didn’t Tell Me I Wasn’t A Disappointment”

  1. We have incredible power over kids. They hinge on our words of approval or disapproval. This is why we have to be "on" all the time. Thank you for a reminder of the impact we have – let them all be positive!

  2. Thank you for the painful, yet heartfelt post. How often do we all use those "heavy words" without a thought of what the aftermath is inside that student. This is a great reminder to all of us that our words hold power. I do love the personal apology note. I don't think we give kids enough credit of how they crave that sort of interaction with us.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, Pernille. I know how hard it must have been. It always seems so much better to say, "I'm disappointed," rather than yelling or getting fired up like some people do. But your post shows us that those two words can have an even bigger impact than a raised voice. I will think about this each time I say that I'm disappointed when I'm talking with one of my students. Thank you for making me think.

  4. Pernille,One of my favorites, Rick Lavoie, says 'You disappointed me' is about the worst thing we can say to a child. Yet I am willing to betmost of us have said it more than once because we feel the need to make kids fit our standards and values. If we aren't judging them harshly we must be doing something wrong, we assume.You have to admire the kid for calling you out. That is a lesson you won't soon forget.My kids don't usually have the boldness to confront me, but I have done similar things in the past. Did you ever read this? Definitely a low for me and something I can't forget.

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