There was a second grade boy who we’ll call “Ty.” He was a nice kid. Quiet, and got along well with most of the other kids.
One day during study hall, the kids were being loud. I told them that the next person I have to ask to be quiet would get put in time-out during play time.
Ty was talking, so I told him he has time-out.
I was helping a student with their homework when Alice came up to me.
“Ty’s crying,” she said.
“Ty’s a good boy,” added Mary Ann.
Ty, who usually doesn’t get in trouble, was talking at the wrong time. I could tell he felt really bad about it. The girls were defending him to me, as if they were the defense attorneys, and I was the judge.
The sentence I gave him was light; he didn’t have to stay in time-out for very long.
You know, they say nice guys finish last. But when you’re a nice guy, the nice girls stick up for you.
One day the kids were sitting around me during study hall.
“Mr. Robert,” said Alice. “You’re so nice. Isn’t he nice? You’re the nicest leader.” she said to the other girls.
“Yeah, you’re SOOO nice,” said Mary Ann. The other girls agreed.
“I’m not nice,” I said.
“Yes you are!” said Mary Ann, laughing as if it was silly for me to even claim not to be nice.
“I’m not supposed to be nice to you kids. I’m supposed to be mean. It’s part of my job. My boss tells me to be mean.”
“…Really!?” said Mary Ann.
Yes, it’s true. My boss tells us to be mean to the kids. Not abusively mean or anything, but the point is he doesn’t want us to be so nice to them that they don’t listen to us or take us seriously. We’re there to be their leader, not their friend.
It’s a fine line trying to be an authority figure to kids, while at the same time not being overly-harsh on them. But the more you work with kids, the better you get at it.
I think Mary Ann got the picture, because when the other girls were still talking about me being nice, Mary Ann warned them. “Don’t tell him he’s nice! If you tell him he’s nice, he has to be meaner to us!”
“Really!?” said the other girls.
“Yeah! His boss said he has to be mean!” said Mary Ann.
A little later, Mary Ann came up to me and handed me a note. It said, “You are very mean.”
“Thanks, Mary Ann,” I said. She smiled.
“Isn’t he mean?” she said to the other girls.
“Yeah,” said Alice. “He’s SOOO mean.”