The sixth time I went to the principal's office

Courtesy of the author

Courtesy of the author

When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't consistently follow the rules.

Here are a few of my infractions:

  • I pulled a girl's hair on the bus in order to get her attention (it worked).
  • I wrote an insulting poem about a boy in my class.
  • I called a classmate a “jackass" and I called another one a — well, you don't want to know.

These offenses and several others resulted in me repeatedly being sent to the principal’s office. And while I hated going to the principal’s office, I did not hate the principal, Mr. Ratcliff.

Mr. Ratcliff was a kind, elderly man, so when he barely spanked me for pulling my classmate's hair, it didn’t hurt at all, but it did hurt my feelings. I thought so much of him and moments like that felt like conclusive proof that I was hopelessly bad. Contrary to what must have been popular belief, however, I really did want to be good like the teacher’s pets. I just didn’t seem to have it in me.

When I got called to Mr. Ratcliff’s office for the sixth time, I had no idea what I had done and I felt dejected as I walked down the hallway. I came into his office, sat down, and looked at the floor. Then he said the last thing I expected to hear:

“Josh, I’ve heard you’ve been behaving really well lately. I want you to know how proud I am of you, and I just called you down to my office so I could give you a peppermint.”

I was stunned.


“Yep, now you can take that peppermint and go back to class.”

I took the peppermint with me and carried it down the hallway like it was a gold coin.

Then I went to class and bragged to my classmates about my turnaround. My third-grade year of misbehaving was redeemed and Mr. Ratcliff had secured my redemption. What a relief. I wasn’t so bad after all.

I look back at that conversation and a lot of questions come to mind that I haven’t even thought about until recently: Who told Mr. Ratcliff to do that? Was my teacher involved in it? Did he do it on his own? What did I do to get his attention?

I have no idea.

I do know this: There’s undoubtedly some troublemaking kid at your church, at your child’s school, in your neighborhood, or, if you’re a teacher, in your classroom. Unfortunately, that child thinks they're bad, instead of realizing that they're just a kid who has a problem with bad behavior. Help that kid out.

Go buy a cheap bag of peppermints and take the time to notice that child when they get something — anything — right. Then take them aside, tell them you need to talk to them, and do what Mr. Ratcliff did: Give them some hope by giving them some love. They might just remember you for the rest of their lives.

Joshua Rogers is writer, speaker, and attorney who lives in Washington, D.C. You can follow Joshua on Twitter @MrJoshuaRogers and Facebook, and read more of his writing at