There’s a new post making the rounds on Facebook. It’s about a sign that the Catholic High School for Boys has posted on their front door for this school year. It says:
If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc, TURN AROUND and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.
Many teachers I know are sharing it gleefully. And that worries me for a bunch of reasons. First, it shows a lack of empathy on our part – as if “tough love” would override helping a student who has forgotten homework or lunch or their cleats. Wouldn’t we want the kids to have what they need for school? And if that means that, from time to time, they need someone to bail them out when they forget something, so be it. And yes, I recognize that many students don’t have the ability to have parents drop something off at school, and so we shouldn’t only have that as a student’s solution, but nor should we turn parents away at the door when they are coming to school to help their child.
Second, I wonder if teachers would subject themselves to this same policy. I’d be in trouble. SLA Ultimate practices at 6:30 am every morning, and I dress in practice gear and change into my work clothes after practice. I’ve forgotten my wallet, socks, a belt, dress shoes, you name it. I’m lucky – my wife goes by SLA on her way to work, and if I realize it in time, I’m able to call her and beg her to drop off what I’ve forgotten. Does that make me a less responsible and effective educator that I occasionally forget stuff when I leave at 6:15 am? I hope not. Nor would I want a teacher not to have someone offer them the same help if they forgot a folder of work to hand back on the kitchen table. And I’m curious how some of the teachers who have been sharing this post on Facebook would react if their principal told their roommate or spouse to turn around if they forgot something, encouraging again, problem-solving.
And finally, it just seems mean to me. We all screw up. We all need to be bailed out. And there are plenty of times in life when we can’t. But I question why a school would send the message to a student that, when the solution to their problem is — quite literally — at the schoolhouse door, that it doesn’t help them. “This is for your own good” often isn’t, and I wonder what the lesson the students will really learn from that sign will be.
As educators, when we have the chance to show kindness, we should. As educators, when we have the chance to make sure kids see that home and school can work together in a child’s best interest, we should. And as educators, when we have the chance to remind kids that it’s ok not to be perfect and that we all need help from time to time, we should.
The world can be a cruel place where people treat one another poorly. Our students have the rest of their lives to learn that particular lesson.
They don’t need to learn it from us.