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What I Have Learned or Re-Learned

A few notes on what I have learned or re-learned recently.

Don’t wear ties to school, the kids like to yank on them. At least not this year, when I had my class from the beginning of the year I could teach them but, since I came in half way through, I have to choose my battles. (Besides I don’t like ties that much.)

Finger paint is an effective projectile, if you have enough of it.

Sorry doesn’t mean anything to kids, unless it is accompanied by a consequence first.

One weekend full of abusive language in one child’s life can effectively disrupt the the lives of 17 kids and 2 teachers for approximately 2 weeks. I learned this when one of my more challenging students came to school and dropped some not so choice words. She was angry and the words were completely out of context. Since that day I have decided that one layer of teaching this class is providing a safe place for students who live in difficult situations to let go of their anger. Its kind of like primal scream therapy some days.

Parents care what teachers think of them and they listen. I did a home visit and changed the nature of the connection between myself, a parent, and a child tin an almost palpable way.

When trying to convey a story to a difficult class of active young children it can be helpful to cross-over storyteller to performance artist and become the story.

If a child displays ADD or ADHD type behaviors but, with proper support is able to change those behaviors, the behaviors may be learned instead of a chemical imbalance. Either way, accommodating those behaviors, without trying to encourage small steps of improvement, is a disservice to the child.

Sit in the pocket and you can see the whole thing. This last one I just learned. Thursday I had a really rough day. I took offense to something an adult said earlier in the day and it sent me into a spiral. The kids could sense I was not in the zone and kept making it worse. The only moment that I felt learning was actually happening was during a music and movement time. The class had just finished singing the Tooty Ta by Dr. Jean and they all yelled and clapped “Woohoo!” During the truly uninspired performance by my kids I pulled back from the moment and realized that I had allowed my frustration from earlier to color my vision of the moment. I had only seen two children actually sing and perform the song.  I said, “Wait a minute. You guys were not that good. If you want to try it again and really sing, then we can clap and shout.” I turned on the music and they launched into the performance. Every child sang. Every child participated. Every child gave their best effort and there it was, a real teaching moment of beauty. As I sang and did the performance with the class I encouraged them, “That’s it. That’s my class!” When they finished we all yelled and cheered. While we were doing the song I kept remembering my own daughter performing the song on stage 7 years ago with her friend. I realized I had pulled back from the situation so much that I felt like I was sitting in a pocket of time. I felt like I imagine a great quarterback feels when the chaos swirls all around, time slows down, and that perfect pass becomes apparent because they are able to wait for it. (I only imagine this, I have never been a quarterback). That was the best two minutes of the whole day.

On Friday, I was determined to take that experience and expand it. It worked. I was more patient, the kids were more connected to myself and their peers, and there was much more learning.

One Comment

  1. Barbara B. says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your words were encouraging and your insight is inspiring. You’ve described the other side of what it is like to be human and bring your human side into the classroom but still manage to elevate above your most vulnerable, and raw emotions. Great job! Great job! Your commitment is unmatched. Thanks for sharing.

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