Q: In my work as a steady substitute of junior grades, it is not infrequently that I encounter students who allow themselves the liberty of disturbing or even misbehaving during classes.
One particular student acted out in an inappropriate manner, and though I tried the various tactics of reasoning with her and ignoring her behavior, she continued disturbing. At one point, when she was stumped by a question on the topic we were learning, I said to her publicly, “You never know the material.” (Indeed, she generally does not keep up.)
Later, I realized that I offended her. I am afraid, however, to ask for forgiveness lest she interpret it as a weakness on my part and increase her disturbances. What can I do?
A: There is no heter for a teacher to offend her student in an unjustifiable way, and certainly not publicly or by way of hotzaas shem ra. A fitting reaction would be to say, “You cannot keep up with the answers because of your disruptions.” This reproof includes toeles for the particular student and for the class at large. The statement you made included no toeles and you should therefore appease the student. When asking for forgiveness, you can point out that her misbehavior caused your slip of the tongue. It is unlikely that such an apology will indicate a weakness on you part. On the contrary, it will increase her trust in you.
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