The student looks up at you with pleading eyes.
They’re distressed. They’re remorseful. They’re in anguish over the mistake they made.
“Please . . . I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll never do it again.”
Indeed, they appear for all the world to be contrite.
You pause. You sigh.
Every bone in your body is screaming for you to give them a second chance.
After all, no one was harmed by their misbehavior. It was the teeniest, tiniest mistake.
Besides, might giving them another chance be better in the long run? Might it improve your relationship and encourage them to think twice the next time?
Plus, giving second chances feels good.
It feels like the right thing to do. It feels kind and charitable. And seeing the smile on their face after you wink and say, “Alright, I trust you. Just don’t do it again.” . . . well, it’s satisfying.
But letting students off the hook is a mistake. It’s a mistake every single time.
A warning is a second chance.
A second chance is already built into the classroom management plan we recommend here at SCM. Its purpose is to give students an opportunity to take care of it on their own and without a true consequence.
Your trust will take a hit.
Each time you go back on your word and fail to do what you promised—in this case, following your plan as it’s written—your students will trust you less and less. Even the very student you let off the hook.
It opens the floodgates.
As soon as you show a tendency to give in to arguments, justifications, pleadings, and the like, nearly every student will try to take advantage of it—and with ever-increasing aggressiveness.
Deciding who to hold accountable on a case-by-case basis is grossly unfair and impossible to know where to draw the line. It’s also a surefire way to lose control of your class.
Your students will dislike you.
Children have an acute sense of fairness. So when they see you letting some students off the hook and not others—regardless of your reasoning—they’ll resent you.
Misbehavior will increase.
Failing to follow your own rules of the class will result in an uptick of misbehavior. You’ll be viewed as a pushover. Thus, your students will begin testing you at every turn.
Do It Anyway
At times, it can be difficult.
It can make you squirm. It can make you feel insensitive and uncaring to hold students accountable who in every way appear remorseful. It goes against your baser instincts.
But you do it anyway.
You do it for them and their future. You do it for you and your peace. You do it for every member of your class because it’s right and it’s fair and it’s what you said you would do.
The truth is, though it may sometimes feel like it, it isn’t coldhearted. Rather, it’s an act of compassion to care enough about your students to make the tough decisions.
It’s an act of compassion to care enough to protect their right to learn and enjoy school.
This is leadership.
As soon as you walk away after enforcing a consequence, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief because you’ll know in that instant that you did the right thing.
You’ll have proven once again that you mean what you say, that you’re a person of your word, and that you can be trusted.
Your students will be watching. They’ll see that student try and fail to beg and bargain their way out of it. They’ll see you follow through, and they’ll approve.
They too will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least in your classroom . . .
The world still makes sense.
And they’ll love you for it.
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