On Wednesday a student in my class was severely embarrassed. It was a really awkward situation that could only happen in middle school to the shyest girl in the whole class. It was horrible.
I cried for her that evening and just felt so weighed down by the whole situation. The worst part, what kept haunting me, was the reaction of her peers. Giggles, points (really? I was shocked at this. I felt like we were being Punk’d. Who points at an embarrassed student while they’re standing up front, mortified?).
My husband, then the ladies in our small group too, helped me to brainstorm how I would deal with this on Thursday. I was embarrassed (and let’s be honest here, I’m pretty awkward) and I knew I hadn’t handled it as well as I could have when it happened. Since they were all laughing and she was in the middle of her presentation, I told the class to be mature and respectful, and I told her to finish sharing. Not the best way to deal with it, I know.
Anyway, Thursday morning, 3rd period rolled around. I sat on my stool just watching them and I waited until they were all seated and the bell rang.
I don’t remember what I said, but I know that they were just as uncomfortable as I was. They watched me with wide eyes, embarrassed that I was talking about internet safety and stranger danger and gossip. I told them that I was disappointed in their reactions. That I expected more from them. They looked guilty and lowered their eyes from my gaze.
I finished. Told them I hate lecturing. Sorry. But did they have any questions or comments?
And then the most beautiful thing happened.
Hands went up. And 12 year olds redeemed their fellow peer.
“I’m sorry I gossiped about what happened to you. If it had been me, I would have been so embarrassed. If I hear anyone talking about it again, I’m going to tell them to stop.”
“I am embarrassed by how I acted. I’m going to find everyone I told and tell them I take it back and was a jerk.”
The most amazing part, I think, was that when these students were apologizing, they weren’t looking at me at all. They looked at her, the ashamed student, and they looked at each other. Their apologies weren’t for me. They were for her, and for each other.
The words flowed from sincere pre-teen hearts and I saw hope and redemption firsthand.