We are making pinch pots in Art. I am perhaps overbearing, but I am working hard with every kid to make a beautiful potlet, not just a pinchy pot. We are having a good time with this, and everybody wants to try very hard to get his or hers looking good. We did a variation of connecting two pinch pots nicely, seamlessly, and then cutting a hole in the top to make a “weed pot,” as we used to say when I was in school, but now I just call it “a little flowerpot.”
. . .but there was one kid, working surreptitiously in his lap while his unpinchpot sat on the table. I saw him reach up and try his clay creation in his mouth. It was in the shape of a little pipe and he was trying to see if it drew air.
“Sorry, we can’t make pipes in here,” I said breezily.
“I’m not making a pipe,” he automatically responded.
Fortunately, we all laughed when I said, “Oh, and here I was seeing you make a long hollow shape and try it out for draw in your mouth!”
Later that day, during my afternoon classes (at the alternative high), we are all busy making pinch pots and variations, too. One of the students’ very carefully built pots has turned up missing! I call an emergency powwow with the principal and the class–no confessions. But on the way out, several kids, knowing that the whole school will receive consequences if no one tells, several kids–tell.
The principal calls in the thief and asks him about that particular pot. The kids agrees it was a nice one. She pulls it up on her desk and says, “You mean this one? It was found in your locker.”
“Oh, so many people have my combination. I didn’t do it!”
This is the constant response: It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it. Not me
For most of my public school teaching career I was teaching in lockup and there we amply reward kids who confess to wrongs or mistakes, with the opportunity to make things right and move on without further comment. Those who lie get big consequences.
How sad that the kids in the public schools aren’t trained for such accountability. Many of these kids will deny culpability till their dying breath, even when the evidence points, sadly, right to them, along with a classroom full of witnesses (how dumb are we, really, to act up in a classroom)? It’s almost automatic to lie to save face, to avoid consequences, or for whatever reasons.
How hard is it to tell the truth? Sometimes, very hard, but as a habit, very easy. I wish there were a way to imagine a classroom/school climate that could help us teach that kind of integrity.