This is my last week of work before my summer holidays. Thank God. As a teacher, I am just emotionally and physically exhausted. Those of you who are parents or spend time with children know what I mean. You love them but do they ever drive you up the wall sometimes. I need the holidays because I need distance from them and they need distance from me too. I was having a chat today with an Irish guy who has been working with teenagers in England for quite some time. He is visiting the school where I work and getting to know the students. We were talking about discipline and he asked me, ¨Seriously, Natascha…do all the kids here have so many behavioural problems? I said, ¨Well, unfortunately, you got the bad luck of being in the class where the a good majority of the students do not behave well.. It is an extreme situation but I imagine that it is quite different where you are working in England.¨He agreed. He told me that if any of his students spoke to a teacher the way he saw some students speaking to the teacher that day, they would be sent out of the room or even supended for a day. That does not really happen where I work. The idea is, ¨Let´s talk to the children and let them know what they are doing is wrong.¨ Right. Well, I agree that words ARE important but words are not the remedy to everything. So is action. Hey, adults are the same. For example, we can be told a million times not to drive over the speed limit because it is dangerous and so forth but it does not keep everyone from doing it. But oncve we are caught and it is on our driving record, we are usually more careful.
Today, while looking after some children in the cafeteria, I discovered that a 4 year old had (on purpose)poured all of his drink on the floor. He found this amusing and I told him, ¨Let´s see how funny it is when you clean it up.” I handed him some paper towels and he was shocked. He began cleaning it and one of the people I work with was shocked that I did that. After about a minute, I told him to get up and I asked him, ¨Was that fun’¨ He answered that it wasn´t and I told him, ¨Well it is not fun for others to clean up your mess either. Next time, think twice before throwing anything on the floor¨. My colleague was still surprised and I said, ¨How will he learn if he does not realise that there is a consequence to his actions?¨ Was I being ¨hard¨on the boy? Maybe, but in my experience, gently saying, ¨Please don´t do that again¨is not quite effective. And I get pretty annoyed when I see children throwing food and drink on the floor. It is such a lack of respect, on top of being a waste.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, a 5 year old student came up to me, crying because his friend had broken his toy. The conversation went something like this:
Boy: He broke my toy! (Accomapanied by theatrical sobs)
Me: I see. And didn´t I ask you to put away the toy because you are not allowed to bring toys to school?
Boy: Yes, but he broke it.
Me: So, first you brought the toy to school knowing you shouldn´t. Then you did the contrary of what I asked and took the toy out again after I asked you to put it away.
This comment of mine was met with no verbal response, but the theatrics disappeared.
Me: How do you think I feel when you ignore me? I feel sad. I am sorry your toy is broken but I am not surprised. That is one of the reasons why you should not bring toys to school.¨
I asked his friend to apologise and they both walked away, but not before telling them that I expected better from them BOTH. Luckily for me, the mother of the boy with the broken toy was fully supportive of my actions when I later explained what happened. Some parents would have been pretty annoyed with me for being too ¨hard¨ and not punishing the other boy more.
Bad choices have consequences. Those consequences are there to teach us. If you tell people you expect great things from them because you know they are capable of doing them, they strive to achieve them. I know some people think I am being hard on my students but the pride they feel when I tell them they made the RIGHT choice tells me I am on the right path.