Thursday, April 7, 2011
Several years ago I was teaching in a church and G's name would be whispered among the preschool teachers. "You are going to have G next year." "Watch out for G." "I'm exhausted. G was here today." When G was in my class, I did discover that sometimes he had challenging behavior (but what preschooler doesn't?). But we learned more about each other and usually his behavior could be handled and we would move on.
Once, in a classroom with another teacher, G was playing in the blocks center. He pulled cars from his pocket and began to play with them. Of course, the other kids wanted to use them, too. "Sure," G said and offered his cars to others. He even left the center to play elsewhere but the cars remained.
Since the emphasis for the day was working together, the teacher decided to send notes home to all the parents. On each note, she wrote, "___ was kind today and worked with his friends by ___." G's note included how he shared his cars. G's mother arrived last and saw the note with his name on it. With a heavy heart, she opened the note to read what had happened in class. Then, almost with tears in her eyes, she said, "You mean, he was good today?"
So often we peg kids with a specific reputation (deserved or not). As I thought back to my time with G, I realized that often he was "good." He did present challenges but he wasn't "bad" all the time. That's just all his mother heard...and all teachers would say among themselves.
I've decided not to listen to other teachers. Well, I'll take whatever they say into account so I can be ready for any new challenges. But I want to give each child I encounter an opportunity to build a solid relationship with me without any excess baggage. I want to give each child a clean slate, a new opportunity to create who he is in my classroom. After all, isn't that what I want when I meet someone new?
I tell other teachers that I practice the "Las Vegas" rule in my room. "Whatever happens there, stays there." If behavior is a constant issue, I'll meet with parents and talk about what to do. If I need some guidance, I'll ask a fellow teacher or other leader. But I don't want to spread a reputation (good or bad) about a kid. What happens in my classroom is between the child and me. And that's where it should stay.