Saturday, December 12, 2009

Yelling v. Partying

That's an exaggeration.  But only kind of.  In wondering what I want to do with the rest of my 40+ years in the workforce, I often think about the  amount of strictness vs. friendliness I would demonstrate in that particular occupation.  In terms of past experiences in the workforce, Brickton Art Center and Woodlawn Nursery School were obviously much more on the friendly, casual, open side; running psych experiments and teaching fourth grade have been, also obviously, on the stricter, more orderly side of the balance.  Of course it has to do with the fact that I'm not coaching art projects using dozens of supplies, nor am I chilling with them in before or after school care.  I (try to) teach them.  And that necessitates a firmer, stricter, no-nonsense approach than the previous two, which I both appreciate and resent.  I'm not going to go into an "I-care-too-much" speech, because it's not that, it's really that part of me would rather just color and talk to them.  The authoritarian half of me, however, is dead-set that these children learn the intricate, hard-and-fast rules of comma placement.  I'm pretty sure you can't do both well. 

That being said, I bet you can imagine that much of the time, I'm giving directions, rules, explaining concepts, disciplining.  I do so somewhat sternly.  But every now and then I get goofy and draw faces on my antibodies in my diagram on the visualizer, or speech bubbles that say zzzzzzz on top of a projected picture of dormant seeds.  I try to give permission for water or to go to the bathroom most of the time, and only say no when there's a good reason (ie, they really need to hear such and such an explanation).  I try to talk at their level, that is, not down to them, and not in an impersonal drone over them, but as adults.  I try to connect with them, when I can and when it's appropriate.  A couple of them started singing "Down" and I told them I loved that song, but only after school.  I also land on those who skip around the classroom, and in doing so, part of me appreciates that aspect of rule and order, and part of me feels like I'm stifling personality and creativity.  But I try, in my delivery, to convey something more than a heartless STOP IT and more of a Come on, now, really?, you know better, you can't do that here.  But when enough of those don't work, the heartless STOP IT becomes more necessary. 

That being said, I bet you can imagine that I absolutely melt when something catches me off that guard.  Anyone who's ever even heard of me, let alone met me, knows that I live off hugs.  Believe it or not, I try not to let the fourth-graders hug me.  I couldn't start my day without hugs from my nursery kids, but here, they're too old to be hugging their teacher good morning.  So, I'll high-five them for doing all their homework or something, but no hugs.  Except, you know, if they JUST got that light bulb about long division or got 100 on that test they studied super-hard for.  Or if they give me something, especially something they made.  Since the beginning of the year, I've gotten a mini pumpkin with an index card telling me I was the best, a fun-size Snickers bar (left over after Halloween, but it still produced the same effect), a little winter scene made out of foam stickers, and a square with a smiling sun on top of a heart made out of recycled scraps in art class.  Then, in any of those situations, I tear up and if they hug me, I hug right back.

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