Ever dealt with a pre-adolescent who thinks your idea is a good one?
No, me either.
Last week I taught Year 6 and anything I said was met with groans.
“Grab out your writing books.”
“Let’s go outside for sport.”
“You’ve got twenty minutes free time.”
Errrrrghgrhh…only twenty minutes!?
“Best joke wins a million dollars and a time machine!”
Errrrghehhrhh…a million, is that all!?
Yes. Quite. Each day I felt physically and emotionally exhausted.
At the supermarket one afternoon, I mentioned the attitude in general conversation at the checkout and an unasked commentator stated disdainfully, “Little brats.”
I did the socially acceptable thing and half-laughed, half-smiled, picked up my Wonder Woman shopping bag and left.
By the time I’d loaded things into the car and was behind the wheel, I’d started to feel defensive of these so-called “brats”. They’re just little, developing humans after all.
They’ve got family issues, personal issues, social drama, work expectations and physical challenges – just like any adult I know. It may be packaged slightly differently but the core content is the same. Pain, anxiety, uncertainty, pressure. Just like me.
I drove along the highway reflecting on a poster I always have on my classroom wall that says - ‘Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?’
Even if it was true, it was neither kind nor necessary to call these kids brats.
I felt a surge of guilt that I hadn’t said anything to this unasked commentator. But again, I asked, ‘Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
There was no need to shame myself.
“Well, who did this guy think he was to call them brats without being asked? What does he know?” I thought.
And came back once more to, ‘Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?’
No, I didn’t know his story. Maybe he hadn’t talked to anyone for a week and just wanted to feel like part of a conversation? There was no use in shaming him either.
So, I let go of all that.
Getting home, unpacking tins and toilet paper I thought, “Well, what now? I’m not calling the kids brats, I’m not shaming me or making assumptions about the unasked commentator…but I still don’t feel good about this Year 6 attitude.”
I’d like to say that the following day I was revitalised and ready to face the groans with fresh zeal and optimism – but I still felt tired and over it. Their groans weren’t kind or necessary either!
However, my feelings had softened a little. I still noticed when they groaned and commented about maths and fun and home time, but it no longer irritated me the same way. It didn’t run so deep.
Because I’d dug into how I felt and developed some compassion for them (and myself!), I didn’t react with irritation. I could find humour and feel a spaciousness that hadn’t been there previously.
When I had to manage behaviour issues I felt myself going over, 'Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?' Was I being kind in my interactions, true in my communication and only entering into that which was necessary?
Of course, not every single time. I still let at least one sarcastic comment slip! And when it did, I did my best to only give self-talk that was kind, true and necessary. Goodness knows, I wouldn’t want to be a little brat!
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Sound familiar? Feeling over the groans? What other ways have you positively dealt with feelings of frustration with your students or comments from others (or yourself!)?
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