Posted by: darcymullin | April 28, 2011

Snap Judgements

A recent post by Johnny Bevacqua talks about a time he made a snap judgement about a student without realizing he didn’t have all the facts.  It got me thinking about a time I did something similar. 

About 10 years ago I was teaching at a middle school and we had a really good leadership program.  Grade 8 students mentoring Grade 6 students, training them in leadership roles around the school.  It was great.  One of the Grade 8 students at the time, Ben (pseudonym) was a star – committed, patient, compassionate…everything you could ask for as a leader.  One day I was walking down the hall at lunch and this pack of Grade 6 students was racing down the hall in a “closed” part of the school.  I got mad at the kids, but I singled one out in particular, Ben’s brother Steven (pseudonym).  I went on at length about how he should be more like his brother and how his brother would never act to irresponsibly.  I went on with my day, thinking I had just set this boy on the right track and to be honest never thought about it again.

Fast forward two years and Steven was in grade 8 and not part of leadership.  He would have been a natural.  He was very talented in the arts, charismatic, kids looked up to him and he was involved in other things around the school.  One day I asked him why he wasn’t in leadership and what he told me blew my mind and forever changed the way I interacted with students.  This is what he said:

 “Well, when I was in Grade 6 I was running in the hall with my buddies and you singled me out from all of them and told me that I should be more like my brother,  and stop doing what I was doing.  You didn’t even know me and those were the first words you had ever spoken to me.  I didn’t like school for a long time and I never want to be in leadership.”

  I was floored and did not know what to say.  I had no idea the power (negative) that my words had.  I apologized to Steven, knowing full well that it would not undo what I had done and resolved to change my ways and see each student for who they are, not what they should be, or who we think they should be.  I learned never to have  a preconceived notion about students, either as a learner or a person.  I found that as a teacher my perceptions were always different from other teachers, not because I was better, but because we all perceive things in different ways. 

I never thanked Steven for challenging my thinking, but I do know that he made me a better teacher that day.  He made me realize that I am only effective if I truly know and understand the students we teach.  We can learn so much from our students – thanks Steven.



  1. This post is a good reminder for all of us who work with “kids.” I will keep this post in mind this weekend when I am out with our Scout Cub Pack.

  2. Darcy
    Very powerful. As teachers it is easy to take for granted the positive and negative impact we have on students. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

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