I have a few seventh grade boys who come and eat lunch with me in my classroom once or twice a week – the Charmer and his friends. Because they’re not my students currently and because it’s a non-instructional setting, I’m pretty lenient in the language and behavior I allow. There are some lines that they shouldn’t cross (like when one of the jackasses said he had a BB gun in his locker), but for the most part, I let them get away with a lot.
Today they crossed a line.
I was helping another former student enter a writing contest while the Charmer and BB Bob drew pictures on my white board. They do this periodically, draw or write notes like, “The Charmer wuz here,” and I let them do it and then have them erase it before they leave. The Charmer called me over to see his rabbit and BB Bob’s dog. “Lovely,” I said.
“Here, let me show you how to do it.” BB Bob took the marker and drew two circles, one right next to the other. “Those are his eyes.” He added a long narrow oval coming down off of the circles. “That’s his nose.” He drew a small circle at the base of the oval. “That’s the tip of his nose.” And very quickly, what we had was something that clearly was meant to look like testicles and a penis.
I was stunned. “That’s incredibly inappropriate – you need to stop.”
BB Bob kept drawing, adding other details until it looked like the dog he’d claimed. Then the Charmer jumped on the bandwagon. “Okay, so here’s how to do a rabbit. Start with its feet.” Same two circles. “Add the body.” Same oval, but pointing up. “Now the ---”
And that’s when I was done. “Take a seat.”
“Lemme just finish ---”
“Take a seat RIGHT NOW.”
I sent the third boy out of the room, as he hadn’t been involved, then started with BB Bob. I looked at him for a moment. He stared at the desk. “Look at me.” He finally dragged his eyes up. “You and I have had this conversation recently.”
“Not about ---”
“About what’s appropriate to do in front of a teacher, and what’s not. Was this?”
He shook his head, then muttered, “No. Sorry.”
“You can go.” I turned to the Charmer as BB Bob slunk out. He fiddled with his phone, checked his iPod, tapped a pencil on the desk – anything to not look at me. “Can I have your attention please?”
I waited. After a moment he looked up. “I really am listening.”
“I believe you. I just wanted to be sure. Do you understand why that was totally not okay?” He shrugged. “Charmer, that was really, really, really inappropriate. I give you guys a lot of leeway, but that….that crossed a line. That wasn’t okay?”
“We were just messing around, it wasn’t like it was a big deal or anything. We wouldn’t tell anyone or whatever.”
“It was a big deal to me and it’s not about telling. I’m your teacher. That’s not appropriate.”
I paused, trying to figure out how to put this. “Because…well, because you’re a 13 year old boy and I’m your teacher and it’s not appropriate to use sexual stuff around me.”
“That wasn’t even sexual! And we wouldn’t tell anyone anyway!”
“It was close enough, and that’s not the point. The point is it made me personally uncomfortable. Whether or not you would tell, I was uncomfortable with the fact that it happened at all. And it needs to not happen again. Do you understand?”
“Okay.” He left after that; lunch was over and I had kids coming in, but bleah. I think I got my point across, but I feel like it’s not a point I should have had to work to get across – it should have been obvious. Am I wrong here?
I told Ms. Reading about it after school, to get her perspective and see if she thought I needed to take any additional steps, like report it to admin or anything. This is the third time I’ve had a kid do something that was to some extent sexually inappropriate – one student, when I told a group of kids that I loved them one day, asked, “Physically?”, and another kid, when my husband came up in conversation one day, said that really I wanted to get with him (that one was in the middle of class. AWESOME.). Both times, I reported it to admin and had conversations with the kids about why it was inappropriate. That way, the situation was dealt with and I covered myself. Both times, the kid in question understood the issue right away, was very apologetic, and has been totally cool and not at all creepy ever since.
Ms. Reading felt it had been addressed sufficiently. She suggested I just not have the boys come in for a few days for lunch. I didn’t want it to look like punishment, so she said I could put it on myself, say that I’m just still feeling uncomfortable with the issue the other day and needed a break for a few days.
I’m still not sure. What do you think? Should I report it? I dealt with it – does it need to go further, not even in a I-want-someone-else-to-get-them-in-trouble sense, but just in a I-want-someone-high-up-to-be-aware-of-what-happened-in-case-it-comes-back-on-me sense. A teacher’s career can be ruined so easily by an accusation of impropriety. I don’t think I did anything specific wrong, but I somehow created an atmosphere in which they felt comfortable doing something like that.
Thoughts? Advice? Personal stories? Anything would be appreciated!