Yesterday, I gave a speech to class of fifth graders. The purpose of the speech was to inspire one of them to do the right thing and return the iPad that was stolen. I played on their emotions and certainly felt when they left for the day that they understood the seriousness of the what had happened. Both their teacher and I were not convinced that iPad was coming back, and I began to think about the next steps I would need to take as I involved administration in the situation.
As I was sharing the events of the day with my husband, it all of sudden came to me as I said the words, “It wasn’t number 9 though; it was number 2 that was actually missing.” I knew where the iPad was! It wasn’t stolen. It was in room 214. Another teacher had borrowed for her absent student to finish a project weeks ago, and I didn’t remember her ever returning it. I frantically texted her to find out if, in fact, she had the iPad. She did. I next had to text the 5th grade teacher and let her know the iPad had been found. I would explain it all to her tomorrow.
I should have been relieved that the iPad was found, and I was. However, a knot had now formed in the pit of my stomach. I had worried these kids for nothing. I gave them a speech accusing one of them of stealing. What’s worse, there was a student that I suspected as a the thief. I’m sure many of the students also thought this student was the one who took it. I spent a lot of time last night thinking about what my next steps were going to be.
I know there are many people who might have just told the students the iPad had been found, end of story. But I couldn’t do that. I had just given a room full of eleven year olds a speech telling them to do the right thing. I now had to do the same. I had to apologize to tell for worrying them, for thinking they could possibly steal, for making them suspect each other.
I entered the room right after morning announcements and asked the teacher if I could talk to the class. She and I had already talked, so she was aware of my plan to apologize. These kids were amazing. While adults might have been angry or frustrated that my mistake had caused them worry or stress, the kids were just glad the iPad had been found.
Part of me felt like I should have apologized to the student that I suspected of taking the iPad. She was never accused by me or the teacher, so likely she has no idea that I thought she had taken it. Still, I felt guilty that I had even thought she was capable of doing such a thing. I wonder how many other students had the same feeling of guilt as I did.
I hope the students learned a valuable lesson today. I gave them a speech about doing the right thing. In the end, they got to see someone do the right thing. I was the one who made a mistake, and I was the one who had to own up to it. That’s a lesson you won’t find in a book.