Help! One of My 8th Graders Stole My AirPods

You know what they say about assuming.

Crime scene of stolen Airpods

This week, Ask WeAreTeachers takes on stolen AirPods, being targeted as the union rep, and more.

I think a student stole my Airpods, and I’m so disappointed.

I pride myself on having positive and trusting relationships with my middle schoolers. Well, at least I used to. Because I’m pretty sure an  8th grade student stole my AirPods today. I was listening to  music and eating lunch in my room during my break. I’m super careful to keep them in their case in my top desk drawer, and I  swear I put them back in there after lunch. But as I was getting ready to leave at the end of the day, suddenly the AirPods were nowhere to be found—not in my drawer, in my purse, or on my desk. I’m so upset. The AirPods were expensive, but it’s more about feeling like my relationship with my students has been damaged. I’m not sure how to go about this situation or what to do. Please advise. —Marked in Middle School Math

Dear M.I.M.S.M.,

I’m sorry that happened. Anytime we’re victims of theft, it can feel like such a violation. I had a man come into my classroom while I was on bus duty and take my wallet out of my purse. I can imagine it’s that much worse when you suspect someone you know.

As upset as you are, I’d be careful about leveling any accusations. You don’t want to make any assumptions and cause further damage to your relationship with your students. I think it’s important to give the student in question, if they did indeed take the AirPods, an out. For example, you could offer a way for them to be returned anonymously, so no one has to out themselves.


Teacher Kris N. suggests, “Ask the class if they might have found your AirPods, that you usually put them back after lunch but haven’t been able to locate them. Let them know how important it is for folks to be honest when they find something that belongs to another, and you hope that they will be honest and return them.”

I’m my school’s union rep, and my principal is coming after me.

I am an experienced teacher and have been the building union representative for the last five years. I’m always trying to do my best for our 30 classroom teachers on staff. At our latest staff meeting, our principal gave a presentation with some vague “return to school” plans. I was feeling overwhelmed, and I know the rest of the staff was, too. I asked him for some reassurance, and he went off on me. He berated me in front of everyone, saying it’s hard to be positive when I’m such a negative presence. I know he’s stressed. We all are. But I can’t help but feel like he’s blaming me for voicing something that everyone feels. Isn’t that, like, my role? Maybe I should just resign as union rep and keep my thoughts to myself?  —Trying to Be Union Strong

Dear T.T.B.U.S.,

Being the union rep is a tough gig. I remember. Good for you for standing up for your membership. This shouldn’t have happened to you. Yes, your principal is under a lot of pressure, but that doesn’t excuse the behavior. As a site union rep, it’s your job to express the concerns of your members, and you have a right to do that without being attacked.

Teacher Jeff C. advises, “Take a day or so to cool down. Speak to your local president. Depending upon the individual and your own tolerance, you may prefer a private meeting, a letter/email from you to the principal, copying the letter to the faculty present at the meeting, a face-to-face meeting, or initiating the grievance procedure. Choose the option that is least disruptive while still serving your purpose.”

Please don’t quit. For yourself and for your members, stay strong and stay vocal.

I’m super annoyed that a student is failing my class but will probably pass the AP exam. Is that petty?

I’ve been teaching for five years, but this is my first time with an Advanced Placement course. I’m teaching AP English Literature and Composition. We’ve been virtual most of the year but just moved to a hybrid model. There’s this kid in my class who is a total slacker. He doesn’t turn in most of the work and doesn’t engage in virtual lessons. The thing is—he’s a really bright kid. I think he’s just lazy. Anyway, he has an F in my class right now. I have no problem failing him, but I actually think he might pass the AP exam. Like, he could get a 5. So how can I justify the failing grade? —Attitude Over APtitude

Dear A.O.A.,

If he passes the test, then I’m not sure you can justify it. But you’re probably going to have to wait. Typically, AP results come out in July, so you’d be giving him a grade based on just your class. But you could look at adjusting that grade after he receives his score. And that’s actually what I would advise you to do. I’m not necessarily saying I’d give him an A, but I’d definitely pass him. Here’s why:

First of all, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. You don’t know what’s going on at home. Second, if he passes, then he’s demonstrated mastery. AP teacher Kirk H. says, “The whole point of a grade is to convey understanding of content. If a student is penalized for not turning in work, then they are only being graded for compliance and not learning, which falsifies the grade.”

I understand that “but he didn’t put in the work” crowd. I really do. And I realize that the class isn’t just about the test. But in extraordinary times, we err on the side of the student.

I just learned the mom of one of my first graders has been doing all her work all year. What now?

I currently teach first grade math. We’ve been in a hybrid model since October. I have a student who was virtual most of the year. She seemed to be doing OK on tests and when she turned in work. Well, she showed up in person yesterday, and it quickly became clear that she has almost no understanding of any of the content we’ve covered. She doesn’t recognize numbers past 10. I’m pretty sure her mom has been doing most of the work for her all school year. I feel bad for her, but I don’t feel right sending her off to second grade without the skills she needs. She doesn’t have any learning disabilities. Advice is appreciated. —Frustrated in First

Dear F.I.F.,

I’m not a fan of retention, and even less so given the year we’ve had. I’m with teacher Tina A. on this one: “Many students will not be ‘where they should be,’ so maybe we as educators need to amend our expectations. Retaining children after a pandemic year will probably do more harm than good. The kids will bounce back, and they have more aptitude and resilience than we think. They just need time.”

However, I know you probably don’t have control over how your school handles retentions. You may have to put her on admin’s radar. But I encourage you to do whatever you can to help her avoid being held back. What intervention programs can you leverage? Is summer school an option? Are parents on board to support you?

Because I think it’s fairly likely that mom was just trying to help. Perhaps she just needs some more direction in how to do that in a way that provides her daughter with some scaffolding but still allows you to assess her progress.

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I got frustrated with a difficult parent and sent her a rude email, and I am super sorry now.

I am dealing with a mom that is a real piece of work, like nothing I’ve experienced in 18 years of teaching. She emails me constantly to complain. Most recently, I was planning a field trip and emailed all parents a detailed itinerary about two weeks prior. I would have done it sooner, but I was trying to figure out the venue’s COVID policies. This mother emailed me three days before the trip absolutely furious because her son came home talking about it, and it was ‘the first she’d heard.’ Well, I hit my breaking point and sent her a rude email. I’m sure I came off as condescending, highlighting information in red letters. In any case, she forwarded it to my principal. I’ve really stepped in it and could use some advice.

Help! One of My 8th Graders Stole My AirPods