Yesterday morning I found myself lecturing at the kids. Yes, at them. There is no other way to put it. I was not inviting conversation or problem-solving, I was giving them a long speech. It went something like this: “Guys, I am really frustrated. I don’t know what to do. There have been 59 days of first grade, so you know what to do, but you didn’t do it. Instead, you played, you built things with your books instead of reading them, you drew pictures instead of practicing words, you yelled across the room to your friends instead of using whisper voices. My job is to teach students, and it’s hard to do that when this room is so loud and distracting. My friends (names) who were at my reading table got their new book, and we sort of read it, but we couldn’t do all our work because you weren’t doing your work.” And on and on. And not in a nice, calm, quiet voice.
And even while I was lecturing, I heard myself say, “You know what to do, but you didn’t do it.” And I remembered:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. –Romans 7:15
Of course they know what to do but don’t do it. So do I. Not to mention, I remember hearing that kind of comment as a kid, and feeling horrible for breaking whatever rule. Why did that comment come out of my mouth? I have never expected blind obedience to barked orders in my classroom. And I have never expected perfection. I expect growth of independence, development of character, generosity of spirit. As human beings, we know what to do, we know why we should do a certain thing, but we don’t do it. The important lesson should not be obedience to barked orders, but what to do with your mistakes.
This morning, one boy kicked another boy in the “sensitive area” because he was afraid the other boy was using all the glitter glue, and when it was his turn there wouldn’t be any left. His defense: “I meant to kick him in the knee.” Hmm. My only response to the offender was: “Well, did it work? After you kicked him, were all the glitter glue tubes full again?” 🙂 Thinking about this human-nature issue, I actually think the way to handle those situations is not to say, “You shouldn’t have kicked him.” They already know that. I should focus on, “Okay, you kicked him. That happened. What should you do now?” In preschool, it was always, “You kicked him because you wanted ___ and you didn’t know what to do so that ___ would happen. Let’s figure out what you can do when you want ___.” It took a long time, but it was effective.
I had a terrible sub on Friday. I came back on Monday morning to a note about how bad the day was, how immature the kids are. Um…they are 6 and 7 years old. And they are sugared up and televisioned out, every single day. (My typical goodbye comment is, “Play outside tonight!” And they either look at me like I’m speaking another language, or they tell me reasons why no one will let them.) And by the way, I love pop-tarts, but they are not good breakfast food for school days. This morning three kids walked in my room eating a pop-tart. One girl walked in carrying a pop-tart and a baggie of fruit loops. They each have more sugar in a day than I had in several months when I was their age. I shoul post a sign that says, “Only real food from this point on.” 🙂 Combine that with the fact that 6-year-olds have tons of energy any day of the week, and OF COURSE they can’t sit still!
So this week, I think it’s stuck in the back of my mind that I should be teaching them to blindly obey barked orders, because they made me look bad for the sub. In reality, he’s the 4th sub I’ve had this year, and the other three left notes telling me how kind and responsible they were. Also, I’m told he was trying to treat them like 5th graders. So my apologies that they’re not quite ready for 5th grade yet…maybe in a couple more months. Also, the other subs commented on how much fun they had. As the adult, it’s up to you whether the day is fun or stressful. I’m sorry to say, I haven’t had any fun this week. And neither have my kids. Not until I heard myself say those words.
How I feel is how the kids feel. The difference is, as an adult, I can change the atmosphere. Recently, I’ve noticed that I feel like I’m just racing through the day…not even feeling like I have time to refill my water bottle. At 3:35, I’m always hungry, dying of thirst, running for the restroom, and looking at a tornado-torn classroom that I will be cleaning up alone, because I didn’t take the time to solve any of those problems with the kids. And I’m sending them home feeling the exact same way. For them, it’s not a race to the end of the day. It’s not a “just handle this now, because at 3:35 you’ll be free for the day.” School is just part of life for young kids. They expect it to be just as fun as the other parts of their life. Maybe we can learn a little something from them. Why shouldn’t my 8:00-4:00 be just as fun as the rest of my life, too?