Reflections of First-Year Teacher

He steals. At six-years-old, this boy can look me in the eye and tell me that this new-found pencil is his, and then proceed to tell me how he came to be associated with the utensil. I suppose at that age I thought that I, too, was witty. It began with stickers: motivational, encouraging stickers that I used as a behavioral system. I would endow them to the rightful recipient, and—sometimes even in a day’s time—they would disappear from the chart mounted on the student’s desk, never to be seen again.

I’ve caught him. Twice, thrice… several times over; each time using varying tactics: the guilt-trip, the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, the empathetic, the questioning, the serious. Over a cautious gradient of time, he graduated from stickers to pencils. My pencils, ironically. Attempting to convince even me that he found them—three of them—on the floor.

He advanced to quarters today, and, in the same fail swoop, I advanced to intolerance. The write-up came swiftly, but it was not unforeseen. Somehow it comforted me to learn that he had stolen elsewhere. Sadly, I should be all the more concerned, but in my newness of teaching, I somehow thought his deficiency of self-control could be related to my neglectful eye—or worse, my ignorance. Alas! His mother notified me of their continuous concern for his behavior: that he’s taken money from a student at the afternoon recreation hall weeks before.

Perhaps my insecurities kept me from the write-up sooner. Or maybe it was learning that he has 5 other siblings at home, mostly sisters. Or maybe it was his brilliance in his writing or his perceptive ability to answer aloud correctly. Or maybe, because in a sick way, I wanted the challenge of out-smarting him. I wanted to beat him in his own game and catch him in the act. But when it rains, it pours and he had overstepped the proverbial line in the sand. As fate would have it, he also confessed on my second round of questioning. In an uneasy contortion of truth, I think I love this little boy… even if he’s the stark opposite of why I wanted to teach in the first place.