A Tale of Two Students

In the middle of a heated discussion, going on about an exciting plot point in  Night, I have arms shooting up all around the room contributing to the conversation, a great teaching moment.  As I call on the next student, John, I hear the one conversation killer that drives me insane, “Can I go to the restroom please?” Now, I have spoken to my students many times about the right time and wrong time to ask a question.  John is one of those students who ignores most of those conversations as, John feels, they are not about him.  John heads out, we wrap up in class, the kids start their assignment, and John returns slightly excited and giddy over something he has found.

“How much do you think these glasses are worth?” John asks the students around him, but loud enough for everyone to hear.  I’m on the same side of the room, so I hear another student say, “Those are Gucci, you could get hecka money for those.” John’s excitement gets bigger and more pronounced.  I propose another solution, “John, shouldn’t you get those glasses back to the owner?” He looks at me like I’m insane, “Mr. Soeth, finders keepers, losers weepers.”  This is the point where I think two things: one, this is John, someone who is worried only about what is his and how he can make money from other people’s stuff; two, I have a sinking feeling that our society is becoming so self-centered that nothing is sacred any more.  Hence, students reaching into other student’s bags to grab phones and iPods, something that seems to be happening more and more.

I strike a deal with John, if we can find the owner, he will give them back, if we don’t, he can do whatever he wants with them.  We eventually find the owner, though it takes the young lady a few minutes to realize she even lost the glasses.  Now, I have to convince John to give them back as he is hesitant, “Do I get a finder’s fee?  What are you going to give me for them?” Ransom! Reluctantly, John gives the glasses back, the owner is excited – the glasses were expensive – and the only hurt party is the one who did not make any money.  The girl did say thanks, but that did not seem to pacify the wannabe philanthropist John.

I’m still amazed that  empathy or compassion over a lost item is not shared.  We have all lost something, some items more personal and valuable than others, and in a few cases had them returned, others not.  I told the story of the proverbial lost wallet with “a lot of money” that gets returned to the owner.  My students think I’m crazy, except one, who while in Best Buy lost a $100 while shopping for a new game.  He understands, from personal experience, the value in returning something lost as he never saw that $100 again.

A few days later while I’m in the main office talking to a parent, another student of mine – Michael – comes up front to clear an absence.  As he leaves he turns around to the attendance clerk and says, “Here, I found this wallet while I was walking over here, it has some money it so whoever lost it may need it for lunch. Can I give this to you?” When I ask Michael why he turned in the wallet he says, “Well, it wasn’t mine, and I’m sure someone needed it.  I have money, I don’t need someone else’s money.” I guess there is hope out there after all.

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~ by cadaleaders on April 2, 2010.

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