Before I became a teacher, I thought the coolest thing would be having the power to send kids out of the room to do my royal bidding. “Sammy, bring this down to Mrs. So-and-So,” “Sally, take this to the office.” How cool I would suddenly be, directing my troops like soldiers in a game of Risk!
Even greater, though, would be the ability to EXPEL children from my room when they acted in ways that didn’t suit me. Oh yes, evil laugh, the POWER! The POWER!
There were a couple of times in my early years when I became so incensed at the unforgivable offenses of 10-year olds that I would dispatch them across the hall or threaten them with a visit to a lower grade.
Perhaps this was spurred by how many times I was the recipient of children who were sent to my room for a variety of reasons by a variety of people. Some were banished to my kingdom because they were serving suspensions. Others because they needed to finish work. Still others because they had a rapport with me and needed some time away from something in their own room.
That I was expected to deliver a message of negativity consistent with the person who sent the child to me never really sat well with me. I never felt it was right. And it forced me to reconsider my thinking on what I had once looked forward to: the power.
I am proud to say I have not removed a student from my room in the last two years. I don’t see the point. Yes, some kids do need a break from the room, and I allow that, but it’s never a punishment and it usually involves just a walk in the halls.
But other reasons, like misbehavior or failure to do work in a timely manner, just don’t warrant the ultimate shame of being removed from what should be the safest place in the school – and in some cases is the safest place in a student’s life.
One of my best students two years ago was the same student who must have found himself expelled to my room 10 times the year prior. There were times when he was a handful and times when he definitely pushed me to my limit, but I never sent him out.
We have a lot of power in our classrooms, including the power to welcome and banish children at our will without their dissent. But why would we ever want to do that? What kind of message does that deliver?
“I do not want you here.”
That’s not a message we should be sending to children.