Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Not About Us (Even when it feels like it is)

On Friday I sat beside one of my kinder friends in a whole school assembly. This wasn't an ideal situation because my friend doesn't do well with changes in routine, large crowds or loud noises, which is exactly what a whole school assembly is. So I sat beside him on the floor of the gym, armed with his sticker chart to give frequent reinforcement for his good behavior.
It was going well. In fact, so well that I let myself have a moment where I thought, "wow, this is going really well, I'm so proud of how far my friend has come," which of course is the wrong thought to have. Ever. 
Immediately as those thoughts entered my mind my friend decided to lay down across the gym floor. We were sitting right up front so he just pushed some head start preschoolers out of the way and spread out. 
"Sit up" I hissed. 
"I'm bored of sitting," he whispered back.
"You can sit up or go stand against the wall," I whispered firmly (or as firmly as one can whisper)
"No." he said.

It's not about us
Let me remind you that we are in front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL. The principals are up in front talking and I am standing up in front of everyone whispering to a kindergartner. I'm sure my face was bright red. All I could think was, "I can't believe this is happening. Everyone in this gym is going to think I am a terrible teacher who can't handle kids. No one will ever listen to my recommendations on working with challenging behaviors again." 

I stopped thinking about the kid and just thought about myself. How I, the adult, needed to save face. How I wasn't going to let some five year old hurt my reputation in the school.

In twelve years of teaching I have learned one thing for sure- the minute we stop thinking about the child and start thinking about ourselves is the minute we stop being productive teachers.

Of course the kid didn't comply. His classroom teacher came over, whispered something in his ear, and he stood up and walked to the side of the gym. I followed, red faced, feeling like a failure. 

His teacher looked at me and explained, "I did exactly what you told me to do. I told him I had a job for him to do. Making up jobs was your idea."  Oh. Yeah. Offering jobs. I did recommend that. That does work for this kiddo. And yet I'd been so aware of my own embarrassment that I'd forgotten any strategies I had to work with this kid. I'd stopped making it about him and started making it about myself. Making it about myself only made the situation worse, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

I am still MORTIFIED by having the little episode play out in front of the whole school, but I am an adult and can get past embarrassment. It happens. It was an excellent reminder to me that being worried what others think of me only limits my effectiveness as a teacher. 

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