14 April 2011

Story: Lying

Name changes? You betcha.

Kids lie for a variety of reasons but I find that I have a hard time dealing with kids who lie to coverup their tracks when they've done something wrong. I'm not sure that I'm explaining it properly but when I feel like there's been forethought put into a lie and that this lie was created specifically because a child didn't want to face the consequences that would otherwise have arisen, it just drives me a bit crazy.

Being a librarian means that I have to deal with many kids who have "forgotten" or straight up lost their books. I usually give these kids two weeks to try to find their books before I assume that the book is gone for good; there have been plenty of times that I was pleasantly surprised by the reemergence of a "lost" book. Anyway, pretty much any kid who has lost his/her book doesn't want to admit it and I understand that. It sucks to know that you've lost something and that you'll be charged a fine of some sort. Having said that, there was this one kid, Mindy, who took the whole lying bit to that level that I really detest.

She came to the library with the rest of her class and turned in her book. The problem was that the book she turned in wasn't hers. We've got three identical copies of said book and Mindy's class is one where the kids enjoy checking out multiple copies of the same book so that they can read together and whatnot. When I checked the records, I saw that Mindy and another student in her class, April, had checked out the same book.

It started out innocently and civilly enough. After Mindy had turned in her book and had come up to my desk to checkout her new book, I looked up her file and saw that she still had a book checked out.

"Mindy, did you turn in your book from last week?" I asked.

"Yes, I did," she said.

"Okay, give me a moment," I replied. I'm always okay with double checking things; I know I make mistakes. I found the book she had turned in and quickly realized that it was one with multiple copies. I looked at the book's bar code and discovered that indeed, it did not match the book that Mindy had checked out. Instead, the bar code belonged to a book that her classmate, April, had checked out last week. I glanced around the room and realized that April wasn't even present--she must have been absent that day. Still, it's not like I automatically assumed the worst from Mindy, instead I explained the situation to her.

"But that's MY book. I brought it from MY classroom," she protested.

"Mindy, I understand that but what I'm saying is that someone else in your class had the same book. It might have happened accidentally but somehow, your books were switched and you've turned in her book, not your own. I think that your book might be sitting around somewhere in your class." I tried to reason with her.

"No, I'm sure it was MY book. April must have lost the other one. She tried to take my book!" she insisted. Setting aside the fact that her reasoning didn't make much sense, I continued to try to talk it out.

"Well, Mindy, there isn't much I can do. I've already showed you on the computer that your book is still checked out and that you have turned in April's book. I can't let you check out another book until you've found the missing one." Mindy is a bright kid but she was way too used to getting her way. She could be labeled as a "Teacher's Pet." I was not going to budge on this issue. Everyone needs to learn to face the consequences of their actions.

"Are you going to make me pay for the book?" Mindy worriedly asked. "Because I lost a book before and my mom was really mad. She's not going to pay for another lost book." Ah, so now we had gotten to the crux of the issue. It really was one of those moments that reiterated to me that the truth would have made things go far smoother.

Yes, it's true, sometimes kids do get charged for lost books, but as I already stated, I have a standing policy of letting kids have at least two weeks to look for their misplaced books before I place a fine on their account. The other thing is that I know very well that pretty much all of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Heck, I came from that kind of background myself. I know that money is tight, especially now. When a student can't pay a fine, I allow them to donate a used book to make up for the lost one or to "work" off the fine--by work I mean they come and help me out in the library for a couple of recesses. If Mindy had just told me her concerns from the beginning, I could have explained all of this to her. Instead, we had taken a different, rather winding route to get to the same place.

"Mindy, I'm not going to charge you for the book yet. Like I said, I think that you might have just misplaced the book. I'm pretty sure that it's sitting up in your classroom somewhere. Why don't you ask Mrs. Stewart if you can go up to the classroom and look for your book right now? Maybe you'll find it before library time is over," I suggested.

"No, I know that the book isn't there. I already turned in MY book. It's right there," she said and pointed to April's book on the book cart. That girl was going to stick to her guns even though we both knew she was lying at this point.

We had a standoff, well, sort of. Mindy wanted me to checkout her new book but I wasn't going to while she still had a book missing. I made this point clear but I guess she thought she could wear me down by continuing to stand at the desk. There were other students in her class who had been waiting to get their books checked out so I told her that if she wanted to continue to stand at my desk, she'd have to at least move off to the side a bit. She did so. I checked out other kids' books. She stood and stared at me.

This arrangement probably would have lasted until her class' library time was over but a couple of minutes later another student came strolling into the library. Marlene arrived late to the library because she had a counseling session that was regularly scheduled to overlap with some class time and some library time. She walked up to the circulation desk with two books in hand.

"Ms. Angela, I brought two books. This one is mine and this one I found in our class library. I don't know who's it is but I decided to bring it down anyway," she informed me.

"Thank you, Marlene! I'm glad that you brought your book back. I'm sure that whoever checked out this other book will be happy that it's been returned to the library," I said as I checked in both books. Lo and behold--the book Marlene had found in the classroom library was indeed Mindy's.

Mindy, of course, was standing at the circulation desk this entire time. When she saw that Marlene had come in with her book--even before I had checked it in to confirm that it was her book--Mindy blurted out, "Oh! My bad, I forgot!" She even added in a little giggle to convey the "Silly me!" sentiment.

Those two words, "I forgot," coming from kids when they don't really mean them drive me insane. It's like when a kid says, "I'm sorry," and thinks that those words excuse his/her actions. Well, I'm sorry, Larry but your apology does not make up for the fact that a minute ago you hit Jimmy in the head with a toy helicopter and left nail marks on Annie's cheek when you decided to gouge her. I can't stand it. Needless to say, Mindy got her new book checked out (I'm an advocate for reading after all), but we had a conversation about lying.

Kids--I want to teach them lessons that will lead them to become responsible adults but it's quite the task. Certainly Mindy is not exceptional in her attitude and habits. She's a third grader and didn't get to be the way she is on her own. It takes a village to raise a child, so while I do all that I can, I worry about how much of a difference I'm actually making. You can only do your best though, right?

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