Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

Doesn’t it often feel like we are rushing through, neglecting to better cultivate our relationships with our students?

On Monday, I was very happy to see my students after the weekend. I chatted with them before they came into the room. When they came in, they were really on point, getting everything done prior to making their way to the meeting area for morning routines. We were cookin’!

Knowing we had much to do and not wanting to waste a moment of time, I went through my little “Hope everyone’s doing well and had a nice weekend” spiel. Most confirmed they did, but one boy said, “I had a terrible Sunday. I mean Saturday.” His head was buried in his hands. He was looking down at the tiles.

Clearly, I hadn’t expected any responses. My statement was really just a statement, not an invitation to share. So I said, “Well, I’m sorry, but we can’t talk about it right now. Maybe later.”

And as soon as those words exited my lips, I was taken aback by my own insensitivity. I can only imagine how this child felt. Part of me wanted to stop just to feel out his emotions, take the pulse of the situation, see if something happened that would threaten to unravel his day before it even started. But the other, more sinister part said, “No, you shall not. You have this to do, and you have that to do. There is no time for petty children issues!”

And, sadly, the sinister side won out.

Later in the day, during some brief downtime before lunch, I found the young man who had the terrible Saturday to see if everything was all right. He told me his story. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected from him and we agreed it wasn’t such a terrible Saturday after all.

It becomes very difficult to balance our students’ social needs with our job demands. But one of those demands is to play the role of counselor sometimes. I had an opportunity to answer a child’s cry for help and decided it wasn’t important enough to do so. We had more important things to do. Yet, I am clearly torn. My heart says one thing and my head says the other. How do we balance the needs of our neediest with the expectations of our job performance?


3 responses to “Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

  1. I actually don’t think what you did was so “sinister”. I believe that providing children wih routine, especially those who need but don’t get it elsewhere, is often better for them than any “working through” of emotions with a teacher. I have a different teaching style, yes, but overall I do think there is a big space between caring and sinister that gets filled by caring teachers who don’t address every emotion in the class directly. There are indirect ways to address children’s social needs, and I actually think something like diverting energies is a good skill to acquire.

    • I can’t argue your points. I can only say that the student who brought it up has a bit of a history so that, when he says things like that, it often sends up red flags. You are right, though, there is a time and a place for everything, and this wasn’t one of those stop everything we’re doing moments.

  2. Matthew,

    I also don’t believe that you were sinister but perhaps you could have used different words when you told the child, “Well, I’m sorry, but we can’t talk about it right now. Maybe later.” It’s important for children to know that sometimes they have to wait but saying, “I’m sorry that you had a tough Saturday, as soon as we get settled, we can talk about it,” is a way to acknowledge the child and let the him know that you will discuss it with him. The important thing is that you did make time for him.

    You answered your own question about balancing the social needs of the children with the demands of the job by the title of this blog, Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide. You know what to do.

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