Have you ever said something that you thought would make others think well of you, think that you are cool or funny, or even just that you were so tough they should not mess with you? Then have you been mortified to learn that what you said has a whole other meaning?
Someone once told me you can control what you say but you can't control what the other person hears. And as a teacher I have taken this to heart. My family still laughs at a vulgar name I called my mom by accident. Saying it wasn't accidental. But I had heard my filthy older brother and his filthy friends call each other the name. I assumed it meant jerk or nerd. But after I said it to my mother and she picked her jaw up off of the floor, I was pretty sure it didn't mean nerd or jerk.
For all the reasons I wrote above, I will be called on to show mercy to one of my students. He called me "punk". I have had loved ones who have been incarcerated, and consequently know better than to call anyone that name. But he showed his lack of knowledge and life experience today. Okay, so here's a teachable moment. I didn't tell him the meaning of the word, but rather suggested he speak to a parent about a) the meaning, and b) the foolishness of calling a teacher that name.
As I digest the events of this day, I hope I taught him a lesson in patience and kindness, just like my mom taught me all those years ago. Just paying it forward.