Bitten by Forgiveness
In my first year as a preschool teacher there was an incident where one child, Brett, was biting his friend Ryan almost every day. I did everything I could think of to get him to stop. My “time outs” and his mother working with him at home helped temporarily, but invariably, Ryan would again fall prey to Brett’s teeth.
I focused a lot on working with Brett to change his behavior. But I didn’t realize I was only dealing with half the problem until Ryan’s mother came to me and told me she didn’t feel good about leaving her son at school when he came home with teeth marks adorning his arm day after day. I was so focused on Brett and teaching appropriate behavior that I was oblivious to the pain Ryan was tolerating every time Brett sank his teeth into Ryan’s flesh.
As soon as my eyes were open to Ryan’s plight, Brett was asked to leave the program. It was tough for everyone, but it was obvious that one child’s learning couldn’t override the safety of others. I learned that there is a point where a classroom management issue becomes a safety issue. Ryan and Brett taught me where that line is.
Ryan’s mom came to me to find out what she needed to do to make sure her son was protected while he was at school. Her purpose was not to let me know that I was a horrible teacher, even though her son was not being taken care of properly while he was in my care.
Because of her kindness, I was left with my self-worth and confidence still intact as I learned my lesson. As painful as it was, this incident made me a much better and empathetic teacher for every child I taught from that time forward. I’m sorry I had to learn my lesson at Ryan’s expense.
I saw Ryan’s mom again nine years later. She was happy to see me and was surprised that I remembered her. The truth is, I think of her every time I hear someone badmouth a teacher. I’ll never forget the generosity and kindness she displayed when the interaction could have been so hostile.
We all make mistakes that affect those around us. What a blessing it was for me that day to have forgiveness offered to me instead of condemnation. Ryan’s mother showed me that seeing people through eyes of love and innocence is one of the most humane gifts we can give another person, whether it is a member of our family, a complete stranger or someone in-between.