I felt proud of myself on Saturday. I don’t think I’m a very good teacher because I believe I lack the necessary patience for dealing with a classroom with 20 kids in it (which is nothing compared to the 40+ kids in the Mandarin classes at my school). I often find myself shouting. But I usually feel good working with kids one-on-one or in small groups where each kid can get my full attention.

Anyway, on Saturday we had school even though it was Saturday. Worse yet, they had their science final exam as well. We had class after the final test and I planned to just let them have free time because it was Saturday and they just took a test. But I wanted to give them a little scare. So I told a few students in the hallway before class that actually we’d need to do part two of the science final in the next class because the Director said my test was too easy.

I thought there was no way they’d believe me, but two students did and began arguing in Mandarin. I didn’t realize how distressed they were until from within my classroom I could hear them shouting in the hallway.

When I went into the hallway to quiet them I could see they were crying.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

They rattled off something about how it wasn’t fair they had to do more tests.

Realizing they actually did believe me, I quickly told them it was a joke – or supposed to be.

“That’s not funny!” One of them shouted, and then he stormed off just as upset as when he’d thought he had to do another test. The other boy joined him.

When the break between classes was over and it was time for all the students to enter the classroom, I said a quick apology. One of the boys seemed okay, but the other one – the one who’d stormed off first – still looked upset. I called them over to my desk.

“I’m sorry again. What I did wasn’t funny and I should’ve thought about how stressed you are before trying to make a joke.”

They both said it was okay, but I wanted them to know that I care about how they feel. One of the boys said: “I’m sorry I got mad at you.”

“It’s okay to get mad. It’s okay to be upset.” I wanted to show them that when you get mad you talk and figure out how you can carry on. You acknowledge feelings and intentions and try and see from the other perspective. I think I could’ve just brushed off this whole incident. It was a joke. I’m sorry, but you need to get over it.

Part of me wanted to do this. I probably would’ve been easier. Quick fix, like shouting for the class to be quiet instead of just waiting for them to settle down. Maybe it would’ve saved face. I think that behavior would fit in line with this anti-PC movement happening right now. I don’t really consider myself on either side of the argument because I think calling things “politically correct” is dumb. I don’t care about the politics, I care about the people. Why would I want to make someone feel bad because of something I don’t have to say or do? Why would I not care about the feelings of other people? Remember the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. I don’t want people to not consider my feelings so why would I not consider theirs?

I guess the rebuttal to that is people should have thicker skin and not get offended. I guess PC culture coddles people.

But I don’t know the amount of stress these boys are under to perform well on their exams. And I don’t know the trauma that could be present at home or in their social lives. Why would I add another source of negative emotions in their lives? And why after accidentally causing them pain would I not apologize and try to assuage that pain however possible.

I was proud of myself on Saturday because I hope I showed those boys good behavior that they’ll carry on into their adult lives as compassionate members of society.

And then they played Twister.

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