not just yet
"Oh, I totally forgot to tell you guys something."
It's morning meeting this morning and I have a lot of fresh faces. Not sure of me yet, though I am absolutely sure of them. I have seen them grow. This is my 5th year back at Assumption, my 20th in the classroom, and when I say I know these kiddos--I know them.
I have seen them grow up--many of them since they were 3 years old, beginning our program. I am not an unknown entity to them either. And yet, they don't know me for realz just yet.
"Every Tuesday," I tell them, "we have a little run around after Mass." It's about ten minutes. We never get the recess balls. A run around, not a recess.
"And this 'run-around'," I tell them, "it's not really for all of us who are running around playing tag--it's really for the friends who are suuuuper sleepy, so they can catch a couple more winks before we start our school day."
"Because, I noticed yesterday at mass that some of us were too sleepy to stand up straight, and too sleepy to not lay our heads down on the pew. Too sleepy to...like.. not yawn and stretch and rest our bottoms back on the seat behind us."
And at this--let me tell you--there was some processing going on in this classroom. Because it sounded as though, perhaps, a sleepy person might.not.get. to take part in this little 'run-around' after Mass.
And yet--I didn't say that at all. This is the nature of positive reinforcement. My words aren't taking anything. Only giving something--a nap.
I said, "And those of us who are suuuuper sleepy at Mass can just sit at the little table, enjoy some fresh air, close your eyes for about ten more minutes, and get a little nap."
"The rest of us?" I swiped my hand to the side, no big deal, no fun at all, hardly even worth mentioning..."Well, we'll just run around while we're waiting for you to catch some more winks."
And. Do you think every single one of them understood that if they don't sit up at mass, if they don't keep their eyes open at mass, if they don't participate in mass they're also not participating in that run around? Absolutely they did. But the trick to good teaching is in how you word your expectations. And how you enforce them.
Because will there be a person from time to time who has to "catch some more zzzz's" while we're running around? Absolutely. And it will be a bummer. Nothing more, just a bummer.
This summer, I have learned a lot about plants from Dan. An avid gardener, he has the greenest thumb if anyone I know. And I cannot possibly express to you how much pruning plants so that they may bear fruit is exactly like raising children.
You cannot let them whither on the vine--too long in one place. You have to cut back back the "suckers" -those side shoots that spread the plant in the wrong direction, exhausting its growth, bearing no fruit, only taking up space.
And there will be those who take exception. Who will say, "Oh, you should never take recess from a fidgety child. Recess is exactly what they need! To get the energy out!" And they're not wrong. But to them, I say I didn't take anything. I just didn't quite give the extra thing. You know?
And give some credit where credit is due. A teacher knows this. A teacher never applies a consequence at the first wiggle. Or the 2nd. Or the 5th.
And there are genuinely children who cannot help themselves. What's going on on the inside of their body doesn't match what's going on on the outside. Again, I assure you, a teacher knows this.
But what comes first is seperating the wheat from the chaff. Separating those who genuinely can't, from those who just don't know yet that they CAN.