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Teachers, do nothing

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Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.



I know I can't be the only one who has witnessed this phenomenon.

It has happened to me so often that I have convinced myself that I am not alone.

Tell me you have witnessed this at least once in the past month and when you did, you knew it was pure luck.

What I am referring to are those moments in our lives, and I do mean moments, when we failed to act or to say or to process and because we hesitated, something amazing happened. The moment unfolded beautifully. Without any interference from us. All the while knowing that if we had said something or done something, that the moment wouldn't have happened. Or worse yet, we would have spoken too soon and put our our foot in our mouth.



So, I am on lunch duty the other day and I notice that two kids, we're talking little kids, had spilled milk and made a big mess. They were busted. I was gonna get them. But before I could even get over to give them the scolding they deserved, both boys sprinted to the bathroom.

Without anyone's permission, I might add.

I was ready to get them.

But as they walked ran back out of the bathroom, I noticed they had something in their hands.

Paper towels.

They had run off to the bathroom because they wanted to clean up their mess. I never had the chance to say anything to them. There was no need. Believe me. I had wanted to. If I had been closer to them or the cafeteria hadn't been so noisy, I probably would have had the chance.

Lucky for me I did nothing.



I kept seeing her around the building. In other words, not in her class. How could this be? Who was with her class? More importantly, why wasn't she with her class?

It wasn't her planning period.

It wasn't before or after the school day.

And her students were in her room.

Not receiving instruction from her.

Because I was busy, I didn't say anything. But I did have some choice thoughts for what I was witnessing; unprepared, unprofessional and just plain wrong.

I went about my day and didn't give it any more thought. It wasn't until later that day or the next. I really don't remember. That I found out that my colleague who was not in her class—when she should have been. Was running around the building getting things made and situated for her teammate.

In other words, she was taking time out of her day and away from her class, to help someone else. She didn't have to. But then again, she is the type of person that does what needs to be done. Because it's what's best for kids. And it was what was best for her team.

Lucky for me I said nothing.



Their sons had been just been in a scuffle. And now they were in the main office talking to one another in not-so-quiet-voices. Uh-oh. I couldn't hear what was being said because the office doors were closed. But what I saw looked as if it had the potential for disaster.

I did what I knew I had to do.

I walked into the office.

All the while bracing myself for an uncomfortable moment.

But when I walked into the office I quickly realized that I was off.  Way off.

The two moms were speaking in raised voices.

And yes, they were angry.

But not with each other. With their sons.

To be quite honest, their sons deserved the tongue lashing they were getting. What they had done was wrong and they knew it. They were good kids who had made bad decisions.

Once again, I was lucky that I did nothing.

Trust me. I was ready. I was prepared to break up a mom-fight. Or at least, step in between. I'm certain it wouldn't have worked out well for me.


Teachers, do nothing

I learned a very valuable lesson this past month. That sometimes doing nothing is best. We don't always know when it is and there are definitely times in our profession when we have to do something and quickly.

But more often than not, I think it is best for us to stop, pause and assess the situation. Before we make it worse. What we will find is that many times the situation is well on its way to working itself out. And many times our initial reaction our initial impression, may not be correct.

Just a thought.


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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Guest
    Milo Jury Sunday, 26 November 2017

    Amen! and Amen! We make so many instant decisions all day that we think our immediate assessment of a situation is the best one. When I was an administrator, I found that not acting instantly on each perceived "emergency" and waiting for more information usually solved the problem. Inaction is often the best thing to do.

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019