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robertogreco : mollyknefel   1

Working With Kids – The New Inquiry
"What it’s like when your coworkers outgrow you every year"

"In fact, what goes wrong between adults and children is usually related to the former’s bewilderment at the latter’s inability to conform to their expectations. While the family unit is probably ground zero for this tension, it exists between children and adults in the workplace too. A young person’s growth and development is molded–gently or aggressively–by the adults around them, including their caretakers and educators. I’ve been both. It was my first experiences working with children with disabilities that gave me the sinister feeling that the adult project is often about imposition rather than understanding. Their unrelenting expectations of children–regarding their learning style and ability, their behavior, their gender expression, their social skill–is more hammering than molding.

Children have to be given permission to change locations, consume or refuse food, stand up, sit down, wear certain clothes, speak. Once, a fifth grader asked me if he could get out of his chair to clean out the paper scraps in the bottom of his bookbag. I was struck by the idea of needing permission to do such a thing. When I told him he could, he got up, struck a pose, twirled his backpack over his head, and started dancing down the aisle of the classroom. When he got to the garbage can he shook out his bag, mugging like he was on a runway, flung the backpack on top of his head, and skipped all the way back to his seat. It was unremarkable to both him and the rest of the students–none of them looked up, and he went right back to work.

How many times, before this, had I emptied the annoying tiny garbage out of the bottom of my bag without realizing what a joyous experience it could be? How could the mundane be so instantaneously and completely transformed into the fun? I had almost certainly witnessed thousands of similar moments of uninhibited expression without ever noticing, without actually seeing the person in front of me. The boy was a smart-alec who frequently challenged me in class. We had a history–me saying Teacher Things like “Do I look like I think this is funny?” and him, grin plastered across his face, insisting “I’m not laughing!” Had I decided to wield my arbitrary authority to hold him in his seat that day, I never would have learned how I love the way he throws stuff away."

"A coworker of mine recently had to say goodbye to her students. She is moving forward from her time at the school, where she’s been long enough to see Kindergarteners graduate to middle school. On the last day, one of her kids–a notoriously disruptive second grader–approached her. The boy gave her a watch, and said that this way, she would always know what time it was. She always asked her co-facilitator what time it was, rather than taking out her cell phone to check. He asked her to think of him every time she looked at the watch. He told her that because of her, he knew that he could get better at school. The moment, as she described it to me, transcended the hierarchy of adult-child, teacher-student. They were just two colleagues who had learned and grown because of each other.

Along with whatever the adult recovers by working with kids, then, also comes loss. Kids graduate, move away, switch schools, and adults do basically the same thing but with jobs. There is a necessary impermanence to working with young people, who are always getting older. I’m left with all these hours of home movies of kids, most of whom are no longer in my life but all of whom I remember, and it’s the opposite of loss even though sometimes it feels terrible. In my head, I am their teacher (or caretaker or camp counselor) forever, but not really any of the titles, just a person who remembers, with a three-year-old Silly Band."
ageism  children  adults  teaching  learning  schools  hierarchy  perspective  howwelearn  howweteach  parenting  2013  mollyknefel  tcsnmy 
september 2013 by robertogreco

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