Today, when I was grabbing something out of my closet, my 7th-graders came into my room to get ready to start our class. One of the last kids to come in did not see me behind the open closet door, and she cheered loudly when she thought that I was absent. She was immediately embarrassed when she realized that I was present (and standing quite close to her), and her friends all laughed.
Innocent mistake. I would have just let it go, except when class started a few moments later and a few kids were still giggling about it, I steadied the class and I asked her if she had something to tell me about how she felt about my class. She said no, that [they] like [me]. And I added softly, "Because I would never cheer even when a kid who's really difficult misses my class. What you said... hurt my feelings."
I wasn't mean about it, even though the kid had embarrassed me (intentionally or not). I think that's something that I've learned to do with grace in the last few years. During the class, the kid tried to sneak me a couple of quick apologies, and then after class she hung around and explained that she was sorry that she had been offensive, that she hadn't meant for it to be hurtful but that she was hoping for some free time today to work on something during class.
I appreciated her for her apology. As a teacher of middle-schoolers, I understand that I cannot take these things personally. But, I think it was the first time I embraced the truth and frankly told a kid that what they said was hurtful to me. And hopefully, the next time it will make her think twice about being inadvertently hurtful to someone else.
I am trying to model for my kids the kind of adult I hope they would grow up to be. That's the most difficult task of all, because I'm not sure I am that person all the time. I think this year I am closer than the years before, because I am much more aware of it. But I've still got ways to go.