but it turned out to be a good thing.
Last year, I had a student, let's call him Arthur. Arthur was a skinny, freckle faced kid who always seemed to be a step behind the people around him. He was sweet and I liked him--but there were a few bumps in the road.
The first few weeks of school, Arthur tested me. He cut up and called out and enjoyed being a bit of a class clown. It wasn't serious or malicious; it was more silliness rooted in task avoidance.
Then one day Arthur stole my pig.
Let me explain. In my classroom, I keep a collection of stress balls and wrist bands and noise makers and odd little toys behind my desk. I do this because it amuses me. One of my very favorite items is a Hulk piggy bank that I have Sharpie tattooed with "I love books," "reading rocks," etc. I allow students to purchase supplies from me when they are unprepared and keep most of the proceeds in the Hulk and use the money as a book fund for my classroom library when the book fair comes around.
I also had a clear green plastic pig, piggy bank. It had thirteen cents in it.
One day a student approached me at the end of the hour after everyone had left and said "Ms. Hirsch, Arthur stole your pig" as she pointed to the empty shelf. I might not have believed another student, but this young lady was scrupulously honest and totally guileless.
So, I looked up Arthur's next class, hustled down stairs, walked into his math class and asked for my pig.
Not shocking: Arthur denied having stolen it. I simply said "I don't really believe you. I want to, but I don't and I really want my pig back." Then I turned and walked out of the room. I never mentioned it again.
I never got my pig back. I also never had another discipline issue with Arthur. From that day forward, Arthur made a genuine effort to be successful in my class. He earned a B first semester.
Maybe he wasn't the one who stole my pig, but I feel pretty confident he was guilty, because from that day forward, he consistently acted like he had something to prove to me. He wanted me to believe in him and believe him and trust him.
I hadn't accused him of taking the pig or written him a discipline referral or lectured him or even brought it up again. I told him I didn't believe him when he claimed innocence and walked away.
And as result, I got the best of Arthur every day. Not every kid would react that way, but I am glad Arthur did. It turned out to be a good thing.