Oh no – it’s library today. I like to read but I just don’t like to go to the library. Can’t we go to music instead?
When I heard all of this complaining from fifth graders, it was easy to attribute it to the new school year or simply being fifth graders. But once I entered the library, it was easy to see why they objected to that environment.
Although school rules require silence while standing in line, I think of silence as a relative term. From my standpoint, that means no yelling and no interacting with people throughout the line. This line into the library needed to resemble boot camp formations. The library teacher (apparently, we don’t call them librarians anymore; at least in this school) demanded absolute silence and complete lack of body movement. She reluctantly allowed blinking and breathing. As she directed them to their assigned seats, any infraction sent the offender to the end of the line.
This was a young teacher. My guess was late twenties or early thirties. But she was harsh and abrupt. She instructed me to leave the library, adding (reluctantly) that I could return for the last fifteen minutes. This is wrong, on a variety of levels.
In my opinion, a guest teacher should be welcomed and invited to stay. How likely are students to respect me if my colleagues don’t? And her facial expression never changed from resolute and strict. At no time did I see her smile.
Most importantly I talk with kids, not down to them. Respect from them is earned through the delivery of courtesy and kindness, not barked orders. As a relevant aside, my next teaching assignment included second and third special education students and an educational assistant. She referred to me as “the sub” for the entire day, instructing kids to ask the sub, show it to the sub or it’s up to the sub. Each time she did it, I cringed, particularly because I had prominently posted my name on the board.
Because I haven’t walked in the library teacher’s shoes, I don’t know the struggles and particular pitfalls of her work. But in the process of setting the tone for class, having some respect, fun and smiles would result in much more positive reactions. Call me by my name and remember that these are tiny humans who are worthy of kindness and as much love as we can deliver. Above all, they are amenable to compassionate conversation. Shalom.
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