THINK ABOUT… children, pre-teens, teens and ME in the classroom

As you might have already read, this week I had the chance to be back in the classroom substituting two teachers.

With this I can know complete the spectrum, I’ve been (or tried to, at least) a teacher to children (first grade 7-8 year olds), to pre-teens (6th grade 14-15 year olds), teens in highschool (15-18 year olds).

The innevitable question: WHICH IS BEST?

BEST, I can’t say, it depends on you, your personality, your patience, your tolerance, how politically correct you are willing to be…Each level expects and demands different things from you and only YOU know if you have it and if you are willing to give it.

It is clear to me, after watching and listening to other elementary school teachers, that I don’t have the personality, patience, and the political correctness (does this word exist? or is it correctedness?) to deal with young children the way they are accustomed to. I am tolerant of their needs and of their evident ignorance (not meant in a demeaning way) of many things, specially the importance of following rules, rules that shouldn’t be broken under any circumstance…something very difficult even for me to follow much less enforce…PLEASE, picture this, a little boy or girl doing the PIPI DANCE in front of you, seconds away from doing it right there, and you have to CALMLY say, I’m sorry sweetheart, I can’t let you go to the bathroom, you’ll have to wait till recess (which is about an hour away), IMPOSSIBLE…

Sixth graders didn’t even ask, they know the rule, besides it’s totally uncool to say YOU HAVE TO USE THE BATHROOM when you’re THAT age…

and, well (and I’m writing this with a smug look on my face, jeje!) with my highschool students I just stared at them till they gave up and walked back to their desk, c’mon on, we’re all adults here (or they want to be treated like adults, SOMETIMES) and I’ve been needing to use the bathroom for the last 40 minutes so if I can put mind over matter THEN THEY CAN TOO!

As I was saying, I don’t have the type of personality small children are used to. I have never been able to talk babyish, I have never been condescendant when talking to children, as I see them, they’re small people learning the ropes, intelligent young people that can very well understand normal everyday language. They don’t need to be talked to in a different way. That’s the way I’ve been with my children and up to now haven’t seen any damage to their mind or to their self-esteem. Besides, if you want to express love or kindness a hug will do or some sort of physical contact like taking their hand in yours or touching their cheek or their hair, NOT DOING THE WHOLE BABY-TALK BIT!

This is what I love about dealing with older children…talking to them as I would to anyone else (sans the cursing, of course!) is my way of giving them their place, of reminding them that they are growing, that they will soon be treated like young adults and their way of talking has to be at that level so that the adults in their lives will start to get used to listening to them take part in their conversations, in their decision making.

My PATIENCE. Well I’ve pretty much used it up ON MY BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN (because, to us teachers, our students ARE OUR ADOPTIVE CHILDREN). I cannot dwell along with a small child on life’s oddities and stumbles…for example: Miss, She looked at me with a scary face, me vió feo, Miss!… Miss I can’t work because that boy over there (across the room!) is singing something!…To a small child saying IGNORE HIM/HER is like talking to them about my marital problems: WHAT?!

But with a pre-teen or teenager you can TRY TO reason things out and eventually recommend that they IGNORE HIM/HER… And they’ll find a way to do it. The best part, they later come back and give you an update on the situation, which sometimes ends up in a new friendship between the offender and the offended..It’s FORGIVE AND FORGET with teenagers or sometimes just FORGET leaving the whole forgiving part to a higher power.

Now TOLERANCE. With elementary school children you have to (I’m sorry, this is not going to be nice) DEAL WITH, PUT UP WITH, TOLERATE THE PARENTS in person or through their children’s actions. An example: the bell rang, the children lined up and we walked to the classroom…a little girl stopped at the door where I was standing and she looked at me and said, “Miss would you help me?” “Me ayudas?” (no PLEASE after!) and she turned her back to me, she wanted for me to help her get her backpack off her shoulders…I took the backpack and she continued walking, when she got to her place she looked back expecting me to be there, of course I wasn’t, I was standing at the door holding the backpack and looking at her and she yelled back, “Miss, would you bring it here?” “Miss me lo traes?” YIKES, she wanted to be received at the door of the classroom like she is received at the door of her house or at the door of her chauffeured car…Oh no my dear little miss, I thought, and I replied, “Sweetheart come and get your bag!” it was funny, she had a surprised look on her face… TU HIJO, TU ESPEJO…OUR CHILDREN ARE A REFLECTION OF US… ( I should know this, my own children won’t tolerate bullshit from anyone, have I created politically incorrect monsters?).

With this I go on to my lack of POLITICAL CORRECTEDNESS/CORRECTNESS which to me and my experience can be a synonym for HYPOCRISY. I AM INCAPABLE OF BEING A HIPOCRITE, no matter the situation or circumstance. I cannot sweeten up the ugly truth, no puedo endulzar la verdad…I CAN OMIT A HARSH TRUTH…It’s impossible for me to say something bad in a sweet voice it’s a contadiction to me…I do very much celebrate a child’s achievements, I’m not a witch! And parents only want to hear good things about their child, so many teachers say the bad with a smile on their face…THAT’S SOOOO MISLEADING…Your child has been copying his/her homework SMILES, SMILES…what’s all that about?!

Sadly, a teacher rarely sees much less talks to (now who’s being contradictory?!) the parents of pre-teen or teenagers, and when we do, they EXPECT TO HEAR BAD NEWS, and knowing this, I take care of it so that I can omit it!

To MANY (not all!) small children and their parents, a teacher is an EDUCATED NANNY, someone who’ll take care of them meanwhile trying to straighten the growing branch -TEACH THEM SOMETHING GOOD- … on the other hand to most teens and their parents, a teacher is a teammate in the competition of life, someone who’ll work with you and not against you…THAT’S THE POSITION I LIKE TO PLAY!!!

This educated nanny stays at home and only works part-time, from 4 to 8pm…

Hope I haven’t offended anyone with my words or thoughts. It’s just that I’ve gotten this chance in life to see both sides of the story: watch the play and be part of the backstage preparations…

What we do at home, how we act, what we say CAN UNDERMINE a teacher’s efforts at achool…

Get to know your child’s teacher, talk about your core beliefs and values…

Find middle ground on things you see differently…

This way,  the education your child gets at home is CONGRUENT to the education he/she is getting at school AND VICEVERSA…

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