Betty Blamer

This year I am teaching Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.  It was a recommendation from some colleagues.  So far, responses have varied, which is always the case.  Some students like teacher picked books and some students hate anything a teacher assigns. Nevertheless, I am learning from the book.

Cover of "7 Habits of Highly Effective Te...

Cover of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

One of the points Covey makes is to avoid acting like a victim.  This week I realized I have the epitome of victim in my front row.  Betty (not her real name) has the habit of a defective teen.  If I say, “Pass forward your homework,” she blurts out, “My brother stole my homework!”  If I say, “Take out your vocabulary words,” she exclaims, “Someone stole my paper!”  Occasionally, she takes the initiative and does not wait for me to say anything.  She just declares loud enough for the room next door to hear, “Someone stole my pencil!”

Interestingly enough, she found her vocabulary words in her notebook and her pencil had rolled off of her desk onto the floor.  She never did find her homework.  Perhaps a brother did steal it.  Perhaps the dog ate it.  Perhaps she never did it.  I do wonder why her first thought is about someone stealing her things.

Based on my experiences and Covey’s book, I may have an answer.  First of all, Betty’s behavior shows she wants attention.  She calls out to make sure we all know she is here:  “Hello!  I am here and I can sound mean and tough!  Don’t mess with me!”

Next, she does not like to accept responsibility for her actions.  She prefers to blame others.   Her behavior suggests several possibilities.  She may consider it a sign of weakness to accept responsibility.  She may have learned at home that it is always someone else’s fault.  Or, she may have been punished severely for mistakes, and her fear caused her to create the habit of saying someone stole something.  Or, she could be a thief.  She assumes people steal her things because she steals.

Now, I have to deal with her behavior.  First, I listened to her and showed her that I understood she was struggling to find her materials.  Then, I addressed her behavior in a nonthreatening manner.  I could have been THAT teacher who gives a detention immediately for her outburst.  I chose to first talk to her about her loudness and disruption.  I spent a few minutes quietly asking her closed ended questions:

“Did you have to be so loud?”

“Did you find your item?”

“Do you place your work in your notebook?”

“Did you know I have extra pencils on my desk if you ever need one?”

I ask YES / NO questions to get her to think and prevent her from continuing to blame others.  Then, I discussed with her other ways to handle situations of missing things.  In addition, she and I reread the section of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens where Covey discusses victimitus.  Next, I explained what the specific consequences would be for continuing the outbursts and false accusations of thievery: detention.

I finish up with double-checking to make sure she knows other ways to handle similar situations and that she knows the consequences of not changing her behavior.

How would you deal with Betty Blamer?

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, Humor

One response to “Betty Blamer

  1. You handled that well! I would have reacted similarly, but would add the Peter and the wolf story to let her know that if she’s ever stolen from for real, no one will believe her.

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