Saturday, July 11, 2009

The speech... and the two unforgettable sins

Each school year, my partner and I have 'The Talk' with the new class. It's all about what we expect from our students, what they can expect from us, and what they have gotten themselves into. Today I'm considering the talk in light of the past year, and challenges we have faced.

Part of this two hour speech covers the unforgettable sins. Lying, and Stealing. We discuss what both mean, and describe exactly why they are unforgettable. Not unforgivable... almost anything might be forgiven, as is human nature. But forgotten... no.

Once you find out someone is a thief.... especially when you catch them at it.... the relationship is changed forever. No matter how completely they are forgiven and welcomed back into the fold, they will forever be 'A Thief' to those who know about it. Even if it's just a small nagging thought at the back of the mind... it will surface one day to spread it's poison. No matter how much water goes over that dam, the trust will never be there again.

Stealing is easy to explain: "See that thing? If it does not belong to you, and you take it without permission, that is stealing. It doesn't matter who it belongs to at that point, just that it wasn't yours".

Lying is the same thing, and for the same reason. Someone who is caught in a lie.. is a liar. Liars lie. The same again... no matter how they are forgiven, the trust will never be there the same again. It's a steady and inevitable poison to a relationship that resurfaces one day, some day, and rears it's ugly head.

Lying is a little harder to explain, as there are different flavors of a lie. Telling something you are certain is wrong... that is a lie. Telling something in such a way as to make it sound the opposite of what it is.... that's a lie. Finally, and the hardest to understand, not telling someone something they have a right to know, and you have a duty to tell them.... that is a lie by omission. Many situations come under this last heading, and some people really struggle with it.

Two things we cannot abide in our students; Stealing and lying. Both ruin the trust we need to develop a relationship. Once we catch them at it... what we can do for them as instructors changes forever. How we view them as people... that changes forever as well.

Sadly, for some, it's the first time they have ever heard it. Even more sadly, for some it is too late. Perhaps saddest of all, as instructors it happens to us so often we become highly attuned to the taste of it.

It doesn't taste good, and its a taste one doesn't forget.

Thinking about this put me in mind of the lines spoken by Okla (played by Willie Nelson in The Thief), and I've added them to my sidebar. The older I get, the truer they become.


lucy said...

You and I would make a great teaching team...I have the same talk with my kids. It is a lesson they need to learn and often it is learned the hard way for both of us!

AmericanMercenary said...

The OCS Code of Conduct.

I will not lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do.

The three personal failures; lie, cheat, steal, are not as bad as tolerating. By tolerating such bad conduct one gives permission for others to break the code. Tolerating is the worst possible breach of ethics in the code of conduct.