Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Don't Get Caught?: What Message Are We Sending Our Kids?

Every Tuesday I read to 3 and 4 year olds at the day care center across the street from my school.  As I picked up one of my enthusiastic charges I noticed the phrase on his t-shirt, "Don't Get Caught!" 

 "Don't Get Caught?" I realized he had no idea what it said, so I left it alone. However, as we sat down to read, the phrase on his shirt picked at me. Negative connotations were the only meaning I could derive from that statement. Maybe I was projecting.  Maybe it meant "Don't get caught slacking" or "Don't get caught....", you fill in the rest, I can't think of anything positive right now.

But it reminded me of what our society has become. A place where you can do whatever you want, as long as you "don't get caught".  And, if you do get caught, do not, under any circumstances, take responsibility for your actions!

I have a sign in my classroom that I place in full view every year, "Your Actions, Your Responsibility!" I repeat it, and point to it, when necessary,  all year, day after day. Why? Because many of my students, and some of their parents, choose to do otherwise. Once they are "caught", there is always a response that should somehow absolve them of any responsibility!

"He was doing it too!" Or the infamous, "No, I didn't". (Even if I watched them do it)

 The parent who did not return a form, "She didn't give it to me", knowing it  was tossed or misplaced.

The teachers who helped their students cheat on state tests. "My principal told me to cheat!" (I know many think it was justified, I can't)

"Ed reformers" who get caught in the web of lies they have created, and then yell , "Teacher Accountability!"

I believe I do a pretty good job of instilling responsibility in my students. I lead by example. If I do something wrong, I own up to it.  I provide plenty of examples of what students should do when "caught". I make sure they understand that lying (and that's what it is), is not an option.

By the middle of the year, most of my kids seem to catch on. When they "get caught", they stop mid sentence in their automatic absolution of their behavior. Better yet, they own up right away, and take the proper action.

"Don't Get Caught?" Hopefully, that 4 year old's shirt had a positive connotation. Perhaps someone explained to him that they didn't want him to get caught__________________________. You fill in the blank.:)


  1. Maybe... it meant... don't get caught with your finger in your nose, or your zipper down. As someone who has a "lead foot" when the officer said, "You can contest it in court." I replied, "Guilty as charged, I'm not going to contest anything."

  2. I agree so strongly! Several years ago I must have been "in a mood" one day when I called a local radio station to complain about them playing Shaggy's then-hit-single "It wasn't me" for the very same reason. But I can't help but feel we are responsible for turning a blind eye as a society to this kind of negative messaging.

    By the way, I'm following your blog now - found you through Lessons From the Middle's facebook page.

    Mme Aiello @ Teaching FSL

  3. I am totally with you on this post! Today's world is so full of people never wanting to own up to what they have done or what they should have done. I love that you post that sign in your class room every year! I would be thrilled for my kids to have a teacher like you. One with values and morals. THose things are hard to come by these days.

  4. @Mme Aiello, thank you for following! And "It wasn't me" is so familiar to me, along with it's friend, "I didn't do it!" I agree, society is part of the problem, read the newspapers, watch tv, it is evident every single day.

  5. @MyLife'sJourney Thank you so much! I know I'm "oldschool", but if we don't teach them, and many of them are not learning at home, what becomes of our world?

  6. I don't know how I stumbled here, but what you say resonates totally with me.
    I have two kids- 10 and 8- and I struggle to teach them that owning up is better than attempting to wriggle out. Someday, I will succeed- I hope.