Last week a couple of kids were annoying me. They were battling each other Star Wars style with their pens. No matter how many times I told them to stop, they wouldn't. Finally I just took the pens away.
This is nothing new. I confiscate kids' stuff all the time when it's distracting me. Mostly it's rulers, pens (they're supposed to write in pencil) and those little finger skateboards. I usually give the kids their junk back at the end of class. But these two were particularly getting on my nerves.
I just didn't want to give them the satisfaction of getting their pens back, so I made up a dumb reason to keep them. So I told them I was keeping the pens until they wrote me apologies. I didn't expect them to do it. If I were the kid, I would just get a new pen.
Well today I got this on a scrap of paper: "Je m'excuse pour mon comportement d'éleve mal élevé du Mardi 28/05/09. Miss Betsy, et je promis de ne plus recommencé." Basically it says sorry for having bad manners and I won't do it again. It probably took him eight seconds to write. In French, the note kind of doesn't even make any sense. But I kept my part of the deal and gave him his pen.
The whole thing reminded me of a This American Life episode, "How to Talk to Kids." In the very last act, Dan Savage makes a point as to why sometimes it's okay to show kids that no matter how bad they can be, adults can be badder. My story isn't as dramatic as his was, but I did convince a kid to submit to a dumb punishment for misbehaving in class. I definitely got a little authority kick out of that. I owned you kid. Okay it was over a 4-color BIC, but I still owned you. Kid 0, (Miss) Betsy 1.