Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stop and Listen

I've often said it's clear that God is trying to teach me patience. I find myself in more and more situations that require the virtue that I am most lacking. Teaching first grade is certainly no exception to that rule. I have a couple students in particular who seem sent directly from the Big Man with a mission that is unconcerned with learning to read or add, but is bent on teaching me how to chill and stay calm and breathe.

One such boy is of particular note. He's my wanderer - can't be sent to the office on an errand, can't come to class from the bus or leave to the bus without holding the hand of an adult. We always check to make sure he's in line after recess and along for the walk when we head down the hall to music or art. He's also my talker. He's a bright child, but with challenges. If an idea is in his head, it's out his mouth and he just cannot stop himself until the whole speech has been rendered. An entire line of first graders might be silent and ready to go to lunch, but if he needs to tell me that later today his brother is going to get a new dirt bike, well, we'll all have to wait.

I'm learning how to manage and deal and encourage and differ my needy little students. It's a whole different ballgame from just two grades up, let me tell ya, but I'll get there. Each day I learn more than they do, and each day I'll get better. Today, in particular, I learned quite a lot from my little wanderer.

We were headed to art, in a mostly quiet line - something we've worked really hard at (and something I always wonder why we're so insistent on - why do we remove so much of the socializing from these kids' days?) anywhoodle...on our way to art. Throughout our hallways, we have stop signs hanging from the ceiling. They are good places for our lines to halt for a moment, let the caboose catch up and we can realign, re-silence, whatever is necessary as we head on down the hallway. At one particular corner, it is tempting for some students to jump up and try to hit the stop sign, as it was today. I happened to be further down the hallway, but caught the action out of the corner of my eye and turned my head just in time to see a blue-shirted child come landing down and another one of my challenges to go jumping up. I stopped my line and went back to the guilty boys. I asked them if when their parents were driving on the road, were they allowed to hit the stop signs? No was the unanimous concensus. I reminded them that the same rule applies here in school and we aren't to hit our stop signs either. I then quietly told two boys in particular, my blue shirted one and the other, that when we returned to the classroom, they were to move their bees to yellow on our behavior chart. The one blue-shirted boy was silent. I had been surprised that he had done it to begin with, but he didn't utter a word. The other, as is typical denied everything, even though I had seen him clearly commit the error.

As the line continued on down the hallway to art, my little wanderer spoke up. "Miss Wilson, you know that stop sign back there?" He carried on for several steps down the hallway, despite my signal for him to stay at zero voice in the hallway. Reminding myself that I need to just let him talk it out as deterring him is rarely a viable option, I slowed my steps until I was next to him and we walked on down the hall together, side by side.

"What is it, about that stop sign back there that you want to tell me?" I asked.

"Well, you know how you said they were jumping up and hitting it? I just want to tell you who started hitting it."

I was about to remind him that it wasn't his business, although, from experience, I've come to realize that my little wanderer believes most everything to be his business indeed, when he continued, "I started it. C didn't jump up and hit it like you said, I did. I was the one who started the jumping up and hitting the sign."

I was speechless. My little wanderer stood there, behind the other silent accused boy, in a similar blue shirt. The corner of my eye had deceived me, and I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. I stopped right there and I hugged him and I told him that he was such a responsible, honest boy and how wonderful that was. He apologized to me, saying he wouldn't do that again, and then looked right at me and said, "I just didn't want my friend to have to move his bee to yellow."

I could have cried right there. My little wanderer hates to move his bee. I leave it as a near last resort with him, but have to use it from time to time when he needs to reel it in. It takes him a couple minutes to get up usually and go move it and even then he will be quite sullen and sad about having to do so. I often give him a chance to move it back within a few minutes as I know it's painful for him to leave it off of green. Today he said, "when I get back to class, will I have to move my bee to red and spend five minutes of recess with you?" He asked it in full submission. He wasn't trying to negotiate, he just wanted to know before I left him at art class.

"No," I said softly, guiltily. "You can leave your bee on yellow. You told me the truth and took responsibility and that means a lot to me. You don't have to stay in at recess."

I am glad they went off to art and I could go sit in my dark classroom for awhile. I told God I was listening and not just to Him, but to my kids. I got the message. I just hope I remember it for a long, long time.

In the meantime, I hope my little wanderer keeps teaching me.

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