Monday, April 20, 2015

Sneaky Teaching

While my students are at school I love them up, do my best to protect them, and yes, I even throw in some teaching.  It is a frustration that I can't protect them from the grief that accompanies the loss of a beloved family member.  One of my cherubs recently lost an important person in her life.  She continued to come to school, happy to play with her friends and create her artwork.  An outside observer would not be able to determine she had just lost someone close.

That is, until I call her aside to work with her individually.  The adorable and happy go lucky kiddo who once bounced up and down waiting for me to work with her suddenly and sullenly refuses to work with me.  She holds her ground and tells me, "NO! I don't WANT to."

I'm looking at the data I've been collecting on this child.  She is close to meeting her growth target, but not there yet.  I have just over a month to get her to the goal I set for her; the goal attached to my evaluation.  At her first refusal I try to cajole, using humor.  At the second refusal, I become impatient, telling her "We can do it now, or during your choice time."  Then I step back to think.

What is more important?  Protecting this child's fragile emotional state, or meeting my growth target?
I watch her, see her play with her friends and realize these other kiddos were her support.  She doesn't want to be called away from them.  The next day I enlist a child she enjoys working with to join us as we worked together.  He listens to her read her books, he reviews her sight words with her, and when it is time to write a mini book, she writes about him and he writes about her.  She  is delighted to work with him.  I sit back, marveling at the power of peer helpers.

As I drive home from work I congratulate myself on the success of my sneaky plan.  Even though this kiddo could balk at working with her friend in the future, it worked for the day.  I won't do this child any favors by excusing her from the work of learning.  Yet I could do more harm than good by pushing her beyond what is kind.  I will still work with this kiddo, gently pushing her to know a little bit more than she did the day before.  The trick will be to use creativity and compassion to respect where she is emotionally. When she looks back on kindergarten I want her to remember the experience happily.  It's up to me to help her create that memory.

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