My Favorite Student Stole My Wallet

23 Mar

A few years ago, my wallet got stolen at school. I can make a long story short, and briefly tell you what happened. Instead of locking my purse away in a cabinet as usual, I stored it in a desk drawer that day because I had forgotten my keys at home. During class, my cell phone could be heard ringing in the drawer, indicating that I had my valuables in there. So, unbeknownst to me, a student helped himself. Opened the drawer, opened my purse, and took my wallet. Left my phone, left my camera, just took my wallet. In my wallet was eight dollars, my license, my debit card, and my social security card (I know Mom, I’m not supposed to carry that with me. Lesson learned the hard way.) After discovering the theft, I quickly reported it to my principal, the police, and the credit card company, which informed me that $40 had been charged at a gas station around the corner. The wallet was already out of the school, passed from one student to another. An officer came to the school, and together we spoke to each student who was in my classroom. He told them that there was a surveillance tape at the gas station that they were in the process of reviewing (not true,) and what the consequences were if the person didn’t come clean. I told them that I didn’t care about the eight dollars, they could keep the cash, and I just wanted my cards back due to the hassle of replacing them. I advised the kids to get it back, and anonymously drop the wallet somewhere where it could be found, and no charges would be pressed.

Amazingly, they did exactly what I asked. The next morning, my wallet and all of its contents (minus the eight dollars) were on a table in the library. The $40 charge was taken off of my credit card, and the incident was forgotten.

Over the course of the next few days, word traveled through the grapevine that one of my favorite students was the culprit. (For as much as my kids talk about not “snitching,” they unknowingly snitch on each other all the time.) Because of the relationship I had with this particular student, I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions regarding the incident. My first reaction was “How could he do this to me? To me, of all people!!” My second reaction was, “Well, it was my own fault. If I had locked my purse up like I was supposed to, the temptation wouldn’t have been there.” Teachers at my school talk all the time about how our kids just can’t help themselves, they have been brought up by the street and will do what they need to do to get by. And as much as I understand that, the feeling of betrayal still stays with me, almost three years later. At what point should everything I’ve done for that kid outweigh eight dollars? Clearly, I thought we were there. And clearly, he did not. And that hurt.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Another teacher’s purse got stolen, and we matched up a muddy footprint to find the thief. My kids steal from teachers, other students, anyone. I’ve heard stories about a kid who broke into his best friend’s mother’s house and stole from her. What’s going on here? Are there no boundaries? If I went to one of my kids and told them that a stranger robbed me on the street, they would stand up and yell “Oh no they didn’t! Not from Mrs. M!” And it would be all I could do to keep them from going after the guy themselves. They would hate that I had been treated so disrespectfully. So why is it ok to do it themselves? The hardest part was the way the kids were so angry with me for calling the police. They were angry with me. Visibly so. Very obviously so. I seriously considered talking with them and trying to rationalize my actions, and then realized I didn’t owe them an explanation for doing what was right.

So, I’ll ask again. What’s going on here? What would you have done if this happened to you, because I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

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3 Responses to “My Favorite Student Stole My Wallet”

  1. Gern March 23, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    “What would you have done if this happened to you, because I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it.”

    If they had the audacity to show that attitude to me I would have given back my anger in full (but controlled) force. They have to know that this kind of thing is personal, and that it is hurtful. When something as blatantly wrong as this happens I have no problem with forcefully telling them they are wrong and that I am very disappointed with them, and neither should you.

    Though some of them grow up “on the streets” they have to understand that in your classroom the rules are different: as soon as they come into your room it is your job to see that the integrity of your students and their property is to be absolutely respected.

    • Teaching Alternative Art Lessons March 23, 2010 at 11:38 am #

      I absolutely agree with you. Generally speaking, my classroom has always been the one place where respect IS a requirement. They are used to getting away with murder outside of school and even in other classrooms. Due to a mutual respect between myself and the kids, a precedent has been set that what is “normal” on the street doesn’t fly with me. What perplexes me is that these incidents happen DESPITE that precedent. As a teenager, I didn’t always necessarily worry about consequences, but I know when to listen to my conscience.

  2. fingers March 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    I teach inner city and this happens a lot. I just look at that student with disappointment. I’m the person people come to to recover stolen goods. I recovered three stolen teacher cell phones one year. Mostly by offering rewards to kids I know who are good at getting information.

    Once I find out who did it, I talk to them and tell them how disappointed I am. Then whenever I see them I’d drop my eyes and shake my head.

    I have my stuff stolen all the time. I’ve given up caring too much. Mostly books. I just think that those books belong out there.

    Did you press charges? Probably should have. Since your CC was used.

    “I thought I could trust you” is a good statement to use.

    Make sure you keep good records of all his assignments so that if he fails your course you can have proof that he failed you….not that you failed him (what will be perceived as spite). Good luck.

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