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Words we say

Very often, I have an opportunity to learn from the educators and assistants who surround me. Yesterday was one of those events, where the education assistant was firm and thorough, reinforcing the need for student continuity and consistency.

Halfway through the day, I heard her say something that troubled me. “I’m not here for you to like me. I’m here to teach you something.” Be certain that I didn’t respond visibly; there was clearly no information needed from me and I behaved accordingly.

The first thought to occur to me was how students would receive this information. Does she not want us to like her? If we listen to what she’s saying, should we stop liking her? Is it a choice? Are we not supposed to like authority figures?

Under no circumstances am I overestimating the thinking patterns of our children. In this case, they were kindergarteners. But I do believe that we need to be intentional and judicious about the words we use.

My gut feeling is that asking children to process a choice between liking the assistant and obeying her is not a viable one. From my position as the educator in the classroom, this lady had a pretty short fuse. She became impatient with a number of students and raised her voice quite often.

Yes, I know that I’m not in this class day after day and I don’t see the behavior patterns. I also don’t know what’s going on in this lady’s life. Some of these students must be pushing her buttons every day and the behavior is both unacceptable and consistently annoying. Maybe she’s feeling as though she has the majority of responsibility for these children and is simply tired. There are many facts that I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I would never say what she did to my students. Although sometimes kids don’t like the directions that I give, I don’t want them to view disliking me as an alternative to following those directions. Maybe it’s just the teaching taste fairy. All I know for certain is that being intentional is a much better alternative than saying words that aren’t productive or constructive. Shalom.

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