Thursday, April 7, 2016

They Do What We Do

Recently I saw a video that's making the rounds online. It's called "Children See, Children Do." In that video, children are doing exactly what the adults in their lives are doing - smoking, yelling at other drivers, gesturing, insulting others, etc. It was an unsettling thing to watch. (Search for it on YouTube if you'd like to see it.) But the video reminded me of something that I often say to other teachers. Children are watching and imitating adults.

That video came back to mind when I saw this photo from the classroom. Two small dolls sitting at a table with plates in front of them. Girls playing in our home center did this on their own. They are emulating the examples they've seen.

I remember on boy coming into my classroom (years ago) and walking straight over to the home center. He opened up the cabinet under the sink and lay down with his head in the cabinet. He pounded on the bottom of the sink and muttered to himself. Yes, plumbing problems at his house in the past week.

I've heard my words coming out of preschoolers' mouths. Words that I've said over and over...and now those words are being said to someone else. (Fortunately those words have been okay to repeat.) But every time it happens, I stop and think about what I've said recently. Would it be what I would want to be remembered for?

When I taught second grade, we were a noisy bunch. Everything seemed loud. Not yelling so much as just loud. One day, while explaining something, I actually listened to myself. I spoke loudly. I was projecting, to make sure everyone could hear. If things were a little noisy and unsettled, I spoke a little louder to make sure I could be heard. When I was excited (or trying to project enthusiasm), I would talk with a loud, punctuated voice. I was setting the noise level in the room - and it was on high. After that, I would try to keep my voice softer. If I felt my level rising, I would stop and take a breath and begin again. (Oh, not always. Probably not even most of the time. But intentionally whenever I could think about it.)

I must be the model of what I want to happen in the classroom. If I want kids to speak kindly to one another, I should speak kindly to every child and adult (!) in the room. If I want kids to listen when I tell a story, I should model what listening is when they are telling stories. If I want less interruptions, I should not interrupt them. If I want them to respect me, I must be respectful.

Yes, I know they are the children and I'm the adult. Yes, I understand that I know more about how things could work than they do. That's why I should be the example. If I want them to do as I say, I should do it, too.

And that also means apologizing to them when I don't.

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