M is an eighth grade, special ed student whom I support (as an ed tech) in two general ed classrooms. He’s easily distracted and does not readily accomplish his goals. But M loves his computer and he loves his Minecraft. Seen that?
The students are watching a movie that parallels the book they’re reading, They’re on the look-out for the usual suspects: comparisons, contrasts, where the movie and text meet, where they don’t. M is on his machine, angled away from sight, almost certainly not taking notes. I confirm this: his not taking notes is certain. Minecraft is in effect.
This is not a freakishly rare event. I speak to M often about this sort of machine mismanagement. But this time I said nothing, just closed the lid, took it off his desk, and put in in the resource room where he could have it next period.
Losing machine privileges for a while was a legit consequence (M is cut a lot of slack but he is not supposed to be blatantly Minecrafting during a lesson). My taking the machine away was a legit action. Nothing here is technically wrong. But everything here is wrong. I should not have wordlessly taken his machine, or anything else. That was appallingly bad governance.
Good governance should inspire self-governance. Good governors should lead instead of drive. The difference is a matter of respect for those being governed: my students. Good governance guides students to their best behavior instead of reducing their chances to behave better.
I could have spoken instead of mutely exercising my power: I have so much more power than you, I don’t even have to say a word. Groan. I could have first spoken with M: What’s going on? Who knows what I might have found out or where I would have seen to go next? Speaking and seeing; those were two senses that I shut down.
I could have explained to M what he needed to accomplish and how, if his machine was getting in the way, if it was too big of a rock to get around that day, that I could have held it for him until he needed it. I could have said something that would have squared M up with his responsibilities instead of stripping away all hopes for him having his own own control of the situation. As a last resort, if necessary, I could have respectfully asked M to give me his machine. My silence was not golden, nowhere near it, more like iron.
I checked in with my supervisor, who understood my unhappiness and said, maybe as balm, that it might have been good for M to have had that experience, to have been reminded that he does not have the freedom to act in ways he knows are wrong.
Meh. I should not have done it. Now I know, and the next time with anyone, anywhere, will be better. Good governors figure things out. They make new mistakes, not old ones.