You know how kids like to ask “why?” a lot? Sometimes they do it just to try and get on other peoples nerves.
Kid: “Why is the sky blue?”
Adult: “That’s just how it is.”
Adult: “Because it is.”
Adult: “Don’t ask why.”
Adult: “Because I said so.”
Adult: “Because it’s annoying.”
Adult: “Because it just is.”
So today two of the fourth-grade girls were doing this to me. However, this one was a bit interesting.
Kids: “Do you have a girlfriend?”
Me: “Because God doesn’t want me to.”
Me: “Because God wants me to focus on Him right now.”
Me: “Because He has a lot of work for me to do right now and He’s growing me and teaching me new things.”
Me: “So I can better serve Him.”
Me: “Because God saved me and now I seek to serve Him.”
Me: “Because He loves me, and He said that those who love Him will obey his commands, and one of his commands is to serve Him.”
Me: “So that other people who don’t know about Jesus can learn about Him.”
Me: “So that they can be saved and go to heaven.”
Me: “Because God loves us so much he gave his only Son to die for us, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Me: “Because he loves us.”
Me: “I don’t know. He just does.”
I’d say it went rather well. A good Bible lesson came out of it. This is just an example of how God gives us so many opportunities to share our faith with those we serve.
There was a second grade boy who we’ll call “Ty.” He was a nice kid. Quiet, and got along well with most of the other kids.
One day during study hall, the kids were being loud. I told them that the next person I have to ask to be quiet would get put in time-out during play time.
Ty was talking, so I told him he has time-out.
I was helping a student with their homework when Alice came up to me.
“Ty’s crying,” she said.
“Ty’s a good boy,” added Mary Ann.
Ty, who usually doesn’t get in trouble, was talking at the wrong time. I could tell he felt really bad about it. The girls were defending him to me, as if they were the defense attorneys, and I was the judge.
The sentence I gave him was light; he didn’t have to stay in time-out for very long.
You know, they say nice guys finish last. But when you’re a nice guy, the nice girls stick up for you.
One day the kids were sitting around me during study hall.
“Mr. Robert,” said Alice. “You’re so nice. Isn’t he nice? You’re the nicest leader.” she said to the other girls.
“Yeah, you’re SOOO nice,” said Mary Ann. The other girls agreed.
“I’m not nice,” I said.
“Yes you are!” said Mary Ann, laughing as if it was silly for me to even claim not to be nice.
“I’m not supposed to be nice to you kids. I’m supposed to be mean. It’s part of my job. My boss tells me to be mean.”
“…Really!?” said Mary Ann.
Yes, it’s true. My boss tells us to be mean to the kids. Not abusively mean or anything, but the point is he doesn’t want us to be so nice to them that they don’t listen to us or take us seriously. We’re there to be their leader, not their friend.
It’s a fine line trying to be an authority figure to kids, while at the same time not being overly-harsh on them. But the more you work with kids, the better you get at it.
I think Mary Ann got the picture, because when the other girls were still talking about me being nice, Mary Ann warned them. “Don’t tell him he’s nice! If you tell him he’s nice, he has to be meaner to us!”
“Really!?” said the other girls.
“Yeah! His boss said he has to be mean!” said Mary Ann.
A little later, Mary Ann came up to me and handed me a note. It said, “You are very mean.”
“Thanks, Mary Ann,” I said. She smiled.
“Isn’t he mean?” she said to the other girls.
“Yeah,” said Alice. “He’s SOOO mean.”
At work we have a ball closet where we keep the playground equipment. There was a second-grader who we’ll call “DJ.” He’s a unique kid with a great imagination.
“Woah,” said DJ when he saw the closet. “What’s this!?” he said, as if he were gazing into some cool, mystical place. He hopped inside, and looked around in awe.
“It’s a magic closet,” I said.
“REALLY!?” he asked.
“No,” said my coworker. “Now get out of the closet.”
One day Mary Ann, DJ, and another second grader had accompanied me to the ball closet as I returned the equipment. They were again fascinated by this simple closet. They hopped in, exploring it as if it were some sort of hidden cave holding long lost treasures.
“I want to see how dark it is inside the closet with the door closed!” said Mary Ann.
“Yeah!” added DJ.
“Can you shut the door on us?” they asked.
“Yeah! Shut the door! Shut the door!”
I shut the door on them.
“Okay. Bye guys. See you tomorrow,” I said, pretending as if I were leaving them in there.
“Woah, it’s dark in here,” they said. “Okay. You can open the door now.”
I remained silent, hoping to trick them into thinking that I left them stuck in there. I waited a little while.
“Mr. Robert, you can open the door now,” they said from inside the closet.
I waited silently.
“Mr. Robert, we know you’re there.”
I couldn’t fool them. They know I would never leave them. Nevertheless, I think they were glad when I opened the door for them. As I held the door for the kids Mary Ann hopped out, and hugged me from behind the way she so often does.
What looks like a simple, ordinary closet to adults, looks like a fascinating place to kids.
What adults see:
What kids see:
One day the kids received their school pictures.
I walked by and noticed their pictures lying on their desks. When they realized I was looking at their pictures, some of the girls tried to hide it from me. “Don’t look!” they said. “I look terrible! It’s hideous!”
“No it’s not,” I said. “It’s cute. Stop being so self-conscious. You’re too young for that.”
Later we were playing with the marble tower game, where you build a tower using different pieces, and let the marbles roll down your creation. It’s a fun game I used to play when I was a kid.
Michelle and another kid were working together making a tower, while a boy we’ll call Neil S. (there’s 2 Neil’s in my group) was working on his own tower with one of the other boys.
Neil S. has a mechanical mind. He excels at building things.
“Woah,” I said when I saw his tower. It was pretty advanced for a 2nd grader.
Michelle heard me, and said, “You like theirs better than ours.”
“Why do you think that?”
“You said, ‘woah.’ That means you like theirs better than ours.”
Normally I try to answer all the kids questions as best I can, no matter how difficult or off-the-wall they may be. After all, that’s how kids learn; by asking questions.
One day Michelle stood up in the middle of study hall. In front of the entire class, she asked, “Mr. Robert, who’s the prettiest girl in the class?”
“All the girls are pretty,” I said. Really, what else was I supposed to say?
“But if you had to choose one,” asked Michelle, “who would you choose?”
At that moment Mick stood up and announced to the class, “I think Yuna’s the prettiest!”
Michelle continued to press me for an answer. “If you had to choose one…”
Honestly I don’t think I could possibly choose one as the prettiest even if I tried. It’s like a parent trying to choose between their kids. It can’t possibly happen. You like them all equally.
“Mr. Robert, who’s the prettiest?”
“Michelle, do your homework.”
“Yuna! It’s Yuna! Yuna’s prettiest!” said Mick, jumping up and down.
By that point, the class was in an uproar.
“Everyone, quiet. Do your homework.”
Mick came to me and showed me a piece of paper. On it he had written, “I like Yuna. I want to ciss her.” (That’s how he spelled it.)
Mick went over to Yuna, showed her the paper (just in case it weren’t obvious already that he liked her), then went back to his seat. Yuna had no reaction whatsoever. Mick didn’t seem to care. He just sat there smiling away.
So some of the boys like Yuna. The boys like the “girly-girls,” like Yuna and Mary Ann. Michelle, on the other hand, is rather tomboyish, and does things differently from the “girly-girls.” They wear skirts, she wears sneakers. They wear pretty shoes and jewelry and things like that, and Michelle tends not to. Michelle is also the youngest kid in the class (she’s young enough to be in first grade) which I think makes things tougher for her.
I had a feeling that Michelle had a mild case of inferiority. As a teacher, it’s important to notice these things in order to help correct it. If a student has a low self-esteem or is self-conscious, it will cause them stress and anxiety and hamper their ability to learn. With Michelle, I just tried to be supportive and encouraging. She would frequently talk to me, and I made sure to take the time to listen. Even if it were about silly things, such as her “hiiii” joke, I think it’s important to show genuine care and interest in students lives in order to make them feel appreciated. Students need solid emotional support in order to achieve academic goals. I think that as teachers, our jobs are to not only help students succeed academically, but also have solid emotional and social well-being.
When I was with the second graders, Yuna would like to hold my hand. She’d like to play with my fingers, particularly when I’d be standing and talking with another student. She’d grab my fingers and try to get my attention. But sometimes she would take one of my fingers and bend it back…really far.
“Yuna! Are you trying to break my finger?”
“Yes!” she said. “I want you to break your finger, so then you can get a cast and I can sign it!”
During recess I let the kids pinch me to see if they could make it hurt.
“Does that hurt?” they’d ask.
“No,” I’d say.
None of the kids succeeded.
Yuna came and pinched me, grabbing my skin and twisting it.
“Ouch!” I said.
“Does it hurt?” she’d ask.
“Yes!” I said, as if it weren’t already obvious.
I don’t know how, but Yuna had a way of always making it hurt. She was quite proud of it.