Schools have rules that everyone is expected to follow. Be safe, be respectful, be responsible. Keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself. We added feet and objects because - well - you can imagine.
In my role as an Assistant Principal, I’ve learned that kids ignore those rules in favor of some of their own. Here are a few.
"He did it to me first." This enables kid A to pulverize kid B in the exact manner he was pulverized and most likely a little more for good measure.
Then there's "It was an accident." Kids consider this their get out of jail free card. “I didn’t know his face was where I was putting my fist.” What?
Another popular one is, "My mom says I can." This is a toughie because some kids are allowed to finish a fight if somebody messes with them. Trouble is, schools are into the peaceful resolution of differences, so these opposite messages can be tricky to navigate.
The one I hear the most is, "They cut me in line." To a kid, this is the ultimate indignity. If someone cuts you, you can do anything back to them no matter how mean, unfair, crazy or disproportionate in relation. All kids think this and by all kids I mean every single kid I have ever met in my entire teaching career.
I'll bet teachers who are listening to this are nodding their heads right now. I can’t tell you how many years of my life I will never get back that I spent mediating cutting squabbles.
All kids agree on this but not one adult agrees. You see the issue. Kids are amazed when I tell them I stand in a line at the grocery store every week - and have done for 26 years and I've never been in a fight. Ever.
Adjudicating problems between children is rewarding because I know I am helping them develop pro-social ways to express their feelings and to get their point across.
Some days, when there are ten kids in my office fuming about this or that, I think, well, at this rate, I will always have a job.
As will chocolatiers.
And wine merchants.