“Please, just give me one more chance.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I promise, it won’t happen again.”
“I know it was wrong.”
“I messed up, and I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Please . . .”
They plead. They beg. They petition.
They dramatize, beseech, and implore with puppy-dog eyes.
And it’s hard not to be sympathetic, especially when they take responsibility.
So what’s the harm in letting them off the hook?
If a student is truly repentant, if they admit their mistake and show remorse, why not just let it go?
Why not accept their assurances and move on?
Well, for starters, you’ll open the floodgates to more and more pleading and pressuring every time you try to enforce a consequence.
And if you don’t let them all off the hook, then you’re going to create resentment. “Why did you let her get away with it and not me?”
Even students who never misbehave will view you as hypocritical and unfair.
Furthermore, the moment you head down this slippery path, you’ll begin losing control of your class. It’s simple math: Inconsistency equals more misbehavior—every single time.
So how do you say no to a desperately apologetic student? How do you hold them accountable when it hurts almost physically to disappoint them?
How do you stick to your guns when every bone in your body is screaming to give them a break?
You don’t allow yourself another option.
You commit mind, body, and soul to following your classroom management plan as it’s written, no matter what and ASAP.
Because as soon as that student sees you thinking about it, they’re going to lay it on even thicker and heavier. And every second that passes will make it that much harder to follow through.
This underscores the importance of walking away after delivering your consequence.
But what happens if you can’t do that? What happens if the student raises their hand and requests to speak with you? Or what if they follow you down the hallway after class?
In this case, the simple truth is best and most effective.
“I wish I could, but if I let you get away with it, then I’d have to do the same for everybody else.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t, or I’d lose control of this class.”
“I made a promise to follow our classroom management plan, and I want you and everyone else to be able to trust me.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to those who have broken the same rule.”
It’s okay to be sympathetic. It’s okay to tell them that you’re sorry and that you’d love to be able to let them off the hook.
It’s okay to tell them that you still think they’re wonderful and that there are no hard feelings.
But you must never, ever give in.
Because once you prove that you’re the real deal, that you really do what you say you’re going to do, they’ll stop trying to sway you. They’ll stop begging and groveling and looking for a way out.
They’ll accept their consequence straightaway and learn from it.
What still surprises me is how many students approach me later in the year to shake my hand and thank me for being fair with them.
Which means the world, of course, and shows that they’re different people than that day they chased me down the hallway.
It also makes it that much easier to say no, to follow through, to do the right thing.
To be the leader they need, not the weak-kneed friend they don’t.
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