0165: 7th Grade Mistakes, Theft, and Tough Decisions
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Caught one of my kids stealing from me today. He stole a pair of headphones. I let him get halfway down the sidewalk, then I called him back. I asked for his bag. He gave it to me. I asked if he needed to tell me anything. He dropped his head. We stepped back into the classroom and sat down. He told me he stole the headphones. I asked why? I told him I knew he wanted them, but “why” beyond that. He said his friend told him to get them for him. I asked who. He was reluctant, but slowly told. He told me he felt stupid and that he had never stolen before. I believe him, he’s not a good thief. He told me he didn’t want to go to jail. “I understand,” I told him, “I don’t want you to ever go to jail.” He told me his brothers were in jail. I took a moment to think. I told him if I let him get away with it he would do it again, and it would get easier. “Your going to tell some people what you did,” I said. He asked if he could stay after school and work it off. I said no. We walked to one of the buildings to find a colleague I trust. She was out at a meeting. We then walked to find our custodian. The kid was breathing hard and trembling. We found him. I asked if he had a minute. We sat down at a table. The kid told what he did. Mr. A listened carefully. The kid cried. Mr. A told him not to. Then he asked a series of questions and talked to him about jail. He offered the kid some advice, and talked to him about labels. He shared with him about friends, and trust. He told the kid I was in a tough position, and that he could go to jail. We went back to my class. My planning period was almost over.
We didn’t go to the office with it. He would have left in a police car. The label would have stuck. Hopefully, the experience and the shame will be enough to prevent it again. It may not. Jail is not the place for a seventh grader. It would or could be the start of a life of recidivism.