Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Or somewhere in between?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by mmswm, Dec 4, 2014.

  1. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Dec 4, 2014

    Something has come up and I offered to the other person in this discussion to post the situation here and get different perspectives. After there have been a few responses, I'll give more details about who the people involved are.

    Here's what happened:

    Yesterday an unknown student stole a small silver spoon from a teacher. The teacher was understandably upset, but overnight decided to forgive the student, whoever that student was. Today during class the teacher told the class her decision, and that it was in part influenced by the scene in "Les Miserables" where the Bishop forgives Valjean for stealing his candlesticks, and told the student, whomever he/she was, to go home and watch that scene to understand what she meant.

    Person number one thinks that this is A-OK. Person number two thinks that this was a very bad decision on the teacher's part.

    Thoughts?
     
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  3. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I would be understandably upset if something of mine was stolen. I have taught for enough years to know that I don't bring anything to school that is precious to me. However, I am ok with the teacher's decision, with the following condition:

    I am probably the only person who has never seen "Les Miserables", so I don't have a clue what that scene is. As long as it isn't R rated, it would be ok.

    I would be interested in knowing why person 2 thinks it is a bad decision.
     
  4. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    What was Person 2's reasoning that it was a bad decision? I don't see anything wrong with it. I think it was important to confront the issue and let the student know that she was hurt by their actions, but was adult enough to forgive. Maybe the student actually will learn something. If nothing else, maybe she'll expose the students to a wonderful show!
     
  5. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    I would not announce a decision to forgive theft from my classroom to my students as that seems like an invitation for additional theft. I think part of my responsibility as a middle school teacher is to help my students understand their actions have consequences. I have 160 students in my room over the course of the day, so if something disappears it is very difficult to track down. I try to keep anything that might be tempting out of sight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2014
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Dec 4, 2014

    Brief summary of the scene in question:

    The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is a recently released parolee, and as such, must carry paperwork to identify himself as a convict. Because of his yellow passport, he cannot find work or even a place to sleep or eat. The bishop of a small town takes pity on him and takes into his home and treats him as an honored guest, feeding him well and offering him a comfortable place to sleep. Valjean sneaks off in the middle of the night, having stolen a set of silverware. He is caught by the local police who bring him back to the bishop's house to confirm the theft. Instead of doing so, the bishop reaches for the silver candlesticks Valjean left behind, telling him that he forgot the most valuable part of his gift to him.

    Person #2 thinks that while the moral lesson of forgiveness is very good, because that scene is so very religious in nature, that telling students to go watch it could be seen as preaching religion, which is a bad idea in a public school.
     
  7. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I don't think that the religious aspect will matter that much to a person who would steal from the teacher. I really need to go watch the film.

    I'm still in favor of teacher 1.
     
  8. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Dec 5, 2014

    It's not preaching religion as in the scene in question, religion is not preached - it is simply a religious character in a work of fiction - and I assume this is a high school (or maybe 8th grade), so the students have encountered such figures before, be it any of the characters in the Scarlet Letter, to references to religion in the works of Shakespeare.
     
  9. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I think the sticking point here is the final line of the scene, which in the musical is "I have bought your soul for God."
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I tend to agree with this, even with the final line of the scene. I think that it's a good example of the teacher alluding to literature and making connections. Surely both of those are in the CCSS somewhere.
     
  11. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I agree with person #2, but for a different reason. Theft is a major referral, and I need for students to respect my belongings and those of their friends. I would follow the school discipline policy on this one.
     
  12. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Who would you charge with the referral?
     
  13. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    The scene is quite religious. The bishop sings to ValJean about how he has saved his soul for God. (ValJean must then use the silver to become an honest man.) Appropriate for public school? No.

    I also see why the teacher is upset about the theft. If she chooses to forgive, great, but is this the way to express it? It's kind of strange.

    For those of you saying you must see this movie, YES!! It's great.
     
  14. missrebecca

    missrebecca Comrade

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    Haha, I like the connection to the CCSS. :lol:

    I would agree that forgiveness is not necessarily religious -- even in the context of Les Mis. Forgiving someone is simply being the "bigger person" and not letting a hurtful thing get you down. I think this is a positive message to model to students.

    However, both this teacher and the bishop have the dilemma of not knowing whether their kindness will be looked at as weakness, and whether the person will steal again. That's the risk you take, and I'm sure the teacher is mature enough to know that. If the student continues stealing, I'm of the belief that you *need* a consequence of some kind. Luckily in Les Mis, Jean Valjean changed for the better -- but I'm not sure that the teacher even knows the identity or past history of the student who stole the spoon, or will know if their behavior changes. Forgiving the student is extremely generous. I'm sure we all have experienced that trusting people can have positive and negative consequences.

    Even if the student were to continue stealing, I think the teacher is being a positive role model and displaying a lot of good personality traits. As Caesar said, they even worked in literature. It may not be something we'd all choose to do, but if the teacher feels good about it, I'd say it was the right decision.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Thanks for your thoughts. Actually, I'm person #2 and my 13yo son is person #1. The teacher involved is a teacher at my son's school.

    My entire thought process for why her actions were a bad idea.

    -This is a public school in a very liberal area of the country. I'd be less opposed to her using that particular scene to teach a morality lesson if this was in the middle of the Bible Belt, but it's not.
    -The population of that particular class is only about 50% Christian. A full 25% of the student body is Islamic, with the remainder being either non-religious or of religions other than those two.
    -This is a sue-happy society. While I think that the moral lesson in that scene is fantastic (forgiving those who have wronged you, taking compassion on those less fortunate, etc.), I think that teachers should act with an excess of caution to avoid even the appearance of teaching religion. The religious theme of that particular scene (especially out of context with the rest of the book/play/movie) is extremely Christianity-centric. The final line of the scene seals my opinion. By telling the students that, she's forgiving the student and the silver spoon* was a gift, she is, in essence, telling the student that she's "buying his/her soul for God", which is completely inappropriate in a public school environment.

    *I'm amused at the parallel between the actual stolen item and the stolen items in the story. That could be what caused the teacher to think of that scene. Who knows.
     
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, and to be clear, my only objection to the teacher's actions is using this particular scene to drive home her point. I'm quite certain she could have used a different example, or even no example at all (just her actions), to drive home her point.
     
  17. missrebecca

    missrebecca Comrade

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    I don't know, I'm an atheist and I see no harm in this. Realistically, could a student or parent even sue someone for letting a theft of the teacher's personal belonging go? If there were a religious overtone for a negative consequence, I could see someone getting upset, but for the absence of a consequence...? We also don't have a verbatim transcript of what the teacher said, and she could have interpreted the Les Mis scene religiously or not.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I've seen schools sued for less, when it comes to matters of separation of church and state issues. And actually, I think if it weren't for that final line, even I wouldn't object. That last line of the scene though, coupled with the teacher's direction to "watch that scene in the movie", is what raised my red flags.
     
  19. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I'm still going to agree with teacher #1. She wasn't giving a mandatory assignment, just suggesting that whoever wronged her might benefit from watching an inspirational scene.
     
  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 5, 2014

    I wouldn't bring a silver spoon to school.

    That said, I offer rewards for anyone who finds a misplaced folder, book, etc..and rewards tend to be stickers or small party favor type items. We don't ave much theft in my building..and the little that exists isn't because of student culprits.?.and I typically have $200+ in my purse, an iPhone...but I never leave those things unattended...
     
  21. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    As an aside, I'm curious about what consequences your son will face at home? Did he return the spoon? Why did he take it in the first place?
     

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