I had an interesting experience on Thursday evening during my Parent Teacher Interviews which were to be “student led.”
I prepared a typical list of classroom areas for parents and child to visit on a “Kindergarten Tour” and the children practiced explaining about activities we do at each one. Things like: “Here is my book box. I’ll read you some books that I’ve made.”
During several of the interviews, older siblings attended. While some of these intermediate students respected that their younger brothers and sisters deserved the limelight at this time, others did not. One grade 5 boy in particular was a problem. At first he was just traveling around the room at great speed, but very quickly he moved to pulling out toys and scattering them. Then he began banging on our toy cash registers and opening cupboards and drawers that he should know were not for students to open. When the dad said nothing, and Jeremy moved in to disrupt his sister’s chance to show what she was learning at school, I realized that it was going to be up to me to get him out of her hair.
I said, “Jeremy, I’ve got a puzzle here that you might like to do. I know we’re missing a piece but I don’t know which one. Maybe you could find out for me. This puzzle cost $100.00 but the great thing is that the company offers to replace any piece that we might lose, for free. What do you say? Would you be able to help me?” This caught his interest somewhat and he decided to sit down.
My original intention was to get him going and then return my attention to his sister and father but very quickly I realized that Jeremy didn’t have enough mathematical understanding to be able to complete the puzzle independently. In order to end this interaction on a positive note, I would have to stay right with him, giving hints and help, and doing some direct teaching about decades and the “rows vs. columns” in a 100 chart. So for five minutes, Jeremy and I worked on the puzzle together, pleasantly chatting back and forth. As the last piece slipped into place, it was easy to see that #57 of the puzzle was indeed missing. I said, “Thanks, Jeremy. Now I know which piece we need to order.”
As I was about to stand up to join his little sister and father, I saw him searching in the pockets of his hoodie. Out came two little toy cars that I had set out on my sink counter, in preparation for returning them to a little boy in my class who was coming in for an interview later in the evening. Jeremy said, “I don’t know how these got in here, but maybe you want them.” Totally taken aback that I had been robbed, I took the cars he held out and said that yes, they belonged to someone in my class who would be happy to have them back. Then we both got up and went to see what Gracie and her dad were up to.
Later I was struck by two thoughts:
1) It’s true what DWS teachers tell students. The only thing that is required of a person, in order to move themselves from Level B/A to Level D, is a simple decision to do just that, and;
2) We should never underestimate the power of just five minutes of relationship-building spent with another individual. In just five minutes I had built enough of a relationship with Jeremy that he no longer felt comfortable stealing from me; his conscience kicked in.