Monday, April 2, 2012

Showing Grace - When NOT to Give a Consequence

I am a firm believer in consistency. Consistency with your students is fair and every one of your students knows what the rules are, and what the consequence is for breaking the rules.
Even though I’m consistent, there’s another aspect about giving consequences that I take into consideration every time.  Grace.  Some students need to be shown grace.  Let me give you an example of what I mean:
The other day I was in the staff room on my lunch break.  Another teacher walked in and informed me that three of my students were messing around in the bathroom by crawling under the stalls. 
Upon entering the classroom after lunch, I planned on speaking with these girls outside to get the full story of what happened.  Before I could approach them about our meeting, THEY CAME TO ME!  They wanted to talk with me outside. 
The girls came forward and said that they were playing around in the bathroom, and admitted they shouldn’t have been crawling under the stalls.  One of my students (who NEVER gets in trouble) was shaking like a leaf.  All three were on the verge of tears. 
I had two options.  Normally, in a situation like this, there’s a consequence.  The girls broke a rule and the consequence should be a color change.  My other option was that I could recognize these girls had come forward, admitted their mistake, and because of how scared they were, I knew it would never happen again.
I chose the latter option.  I wanted my students to see the positive in coming forward and admitting their mistake.  Here’s what I said to the girls, “Thank you so much for coming forward and telling me what happened.  I appreciate your honesty.  Normally, I would give out a color change in this kind of situation, but I know you girls have never done something like this before, and won’t ever do it again, so I will extend grace to you.” 
The poor little girl who was shaking burst out in tears, then the other two joined her in crying.  I hugged them all and told them, “Everyone makes mistakes, and usually there’s consequences.  We need to learn from our mistakes and make better decisions in the future.”
Yes, consistency is important, but I believe grace is equally as important.  Offering grace doesn’t mean that I’m allowing the poor behavior to continue.  By showing grace to these students, I showed them love and taught them a valuable lesson that might not have happened had I given them a color change. 
What are your thoughts on showing grace?  Has it been beneficial to you in your classroom?

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  1. Karen GreenbergApril 10, 2012 6:37 PM

    I agree 100%. Grace is an important part of learning, too.