“Martha Sampson needs you right away in the first-grade hall. She said Alonso’s being disrespectful again and won’t listen to her. She said he ran out of the classroom.” Denise, our office manager rushed into my office to alert me.
“Did she say what he did?” I said as I grabbed for my walkie-talkie.
“Something about him not taking his hoodie off when she asked him to.”
“Oh boy, tell her I’m on my way.”
We had finished our daily routine welcoming everyone in front of the school. The students had just walked to their classrooms and instruction was about to begin. I hurried down the hall toward Alonso’s classroom.
When I rounded the corner I saw him clutching his hoodie around his head yelling, “No, you can’t make me.” Alonso Cardenas was a first-grader. He had wavy dark brown hair and big brown eyes. He was at the end of the hallway about to reach for the push bar on the exit door.
“Alonso,” I called to him. He turned around. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going home. She’s mean and I don’t want to stay here.”
So, now I needed to figure out what had happened. Alonso and I had a good relationship. We spent a lot of time together in my office. We had many talks about what appropriate behavior looks like, he trusted me so he stopped when I called to him.
“Tell me what happened.”
“I didn’t want to take off my hoodie.”
“I see, Mrs. Sampson said that you were being disrespectful to her, is that true?”
I bent down to see his face, as he shook his head from side to side, “No,” he softly said.
I looked him in the eye. “Do you want to be respectful?” He again shook his head from side to side.
“Alonso, do you know what respectful means?”
Shaking his head again he said, “No.”
“Well, do you want to be kind?” He quietly said “No.”
“Do you know what kind means?” His side-to-side head shake told me he didn’t.
I was getting nowhere. Then it hit me; Alonso is an English learner. So I squatted down, looked him in the eye and said, “Alonso, do you want to be a good boy?” He looked up at me with his big brown eyes, shook his head up and down and said, “Yes.”
What was going on in that little mind of his? I gave him a hug.
“You are a good boy, Alonso. But, do you remember that our rule at school is for everyone to take their hats and hoodies off in the classroom?” He nodded his head up and down.
“Mrs. Sampson wasn’t being mean to you when she asked you to take off your hoodie, she was just asking you to follow school rules.” He looked up at me. I wasn’t sure if I saw a tear well up in his eye.
“So, you’ll take your hoodie off when you go back into the classroom?” I asked.
He looked at me shaking his head up and down.
“That’s being a good boy Alonso, and that’s also what being respectful means.”
We walked back to his classroom together and as we reached the door I said, “It’s time Alonso, you need to take your hoodie off now.”
He reached up and pulled the hoodie over the back of his head and walked through the door. I watched him as he walked to his desk and sat down, Martha was walking over to his desk. I would talk with her later about my conversation with Alonso.
How often are we asked to handle behavior issues with students when we only know one side of the story?
How often do we make judgments based on what we have heard and what we already know about a student?
Most of the time when these situations occur, we’re in the middle of something else and it requires stopping to take care of the behavior issue, so we’re in a rush and want to handle it as quickly as possible. Do we always take the time to respect the student and fully listen to their side of the story?
In this case Alonso could have continued being considered disrespectful, when what he really wanted was to be a “good boy.”