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“Thou Shalt Not Steal” But Only Written In Crayon

, , , , , | Learning | March 25, 2019

(I am covering a first-grade classroom in a lower-income school. Most of the kids are from low-income families who struggle. The average child is from a broken home or from a single mother with kids from multiple fathers. A student, crying, runs up to me. She tells me another student has taken her pencil box and all her crayons. Each student has a box with their names on it. On top of that, this girl’s crayon box in the pencil box is labelled with her name. I call the other student over.)

Me: “Hey, [Student #2], did you take crayons out of [Student #1]’s pencil box?”

Student #2: “Yes.”

Me: “[Student #2], you need to give them back. They are not your crayons; they belong to her.”

Student #2: “No, I will not. They are mine. It is fair.”

Me: “No, you took them from her. That is not fair. Where are your crayons?”

Student #2: “I broke them.”

Me: “Why?”

Student #2: “I like hers better, so I broke mine so I’d have to throw them out.”

Me: “That is wrong. You do not take things that belong to other people just because you like them better.”

Student #2: “That’s not what my momma told me. She said that because we are poor, it is the job of people who have nicer things than we do to give us their stuff. That is what is fair. So, I broke my crayons because they are not nice, and I took [Student #1]’s crayons because she has to give me what she has if it is nicer, so it is fair.”

Me: “But how do you know how [Student #1] lives? She is in the same neighborhood as we are. Did you think maybe her mommy worked hard to get her those crayons? Is it fair for her mommy to have to buy her more crayons because you want them?”

([Student #1] is from a struggling family who makes a lot of sacrifices so their kids have what they need for school on a regular basis).  

Student #2: “Yup, and that is why she needs to give me them. Her mommy can buy her more crayons. My mommy said it is only fair and I can take what I need in class.”

(I told her she was not to take things that were not hers again and made her return the crayons. I left a message for the main teacher. I came to find out that this student used this excuse to steal things from other students all the time. When the issues were raised to her mother, the answer was, “Well, maybe the other kids should bring in sh**ty things so my kid does not feel bad. If she needs something she can just take it.”)

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