Championing Kids’ Acceptance
Part of what we do as teachers is help kids accept other kids. If our attitude towards certain kids is less than accepting, or worse, sarcastic, then kids see that as permission to discard that student as well. And, let’s face it –we all have kids that are hard for us, for whatever reason.
I found a long time ago that if I find myself not liking a kid, the best thing to do is spend MORE time with that kid. I find something fun to do and invite the kid…and once I have spent some time one on one, that often negates the feelings I had ben having. The bottom line, though, is that we cannot allow ourselves OR OTHERS to kick kids out of a group.
Championing Kids means to accept them and help others accept their quirkiness as well. YEARS ago, I was teaching K and had a kid who was a hitter–had no social skills to speak of, so I was trying like crazy to help him acclimate himself to being in a group, follow school rules and stop hitting. But, boy, was he smart…I had taught an older sibling and knew the family, and this child had pretty much grown up without boundaries, but with much love. I also knew the family valued the kids behaving in school, but were just too busy to deal with conforming at home–and the older siblings were 10+ years older.
So, one day after having watched some usually nice kids in my classroom attempt to get together to isolate this child, I decided to have a class meeting. Sitting this kid on my lap, I decided to bring his behavior up to the group. I basically held this kid in a hug while I explained to the other 5 and 6 year olds that he was not deliberately trying to be mean when he grabbed stuff or hit, but that he just didn’t know YET how to be considerate (see my K rules post) and that I thought they could help him. I then asked him if wanted our help to be more able to play nicely with other kids, and he nodded. That led into a discussion about how the rest of us could react when he hit or grabbed a toy. We spoke to language we could use, we practiced it and we gave him the words he needed to use as well.
I championed him my letting the others know it was NOT okay to kick him out and make him feel ostracized. I championed him by sharing how smart he was and explaining we needed to help him learn because he just didn’t have it YET. I championed him by empowering him to acknowledge he would take help, and then we gave him the words and phrases he needed to learn how to share. And I championed him by NOT putting him down but letting him know we accepted him and cared for him and would help him be the best he could be.
The important things here were that I asked his permission for him to get help from others, I was clearly saying by holding him that I accepted him and cared for him, and I took away the other kid’s feelings about HIM being a bad kid and put it on his actions, NOT who he was. It took a while to eradicate the hitting, but his behavior markedly improved right away and soon he was no longer hitting or grabbing toys as his first strategy. I’ve always remembered that because I basically talked with a group about one child’s specific issue…and I had some qualms then about doing it and have pondered if there was a better way many times.
BUT, the most important part of this story is what happened 10 or 11 or 12 years later. I had organized a group of alternative HS kids to come over and connect with my kids. You see, they were working on programming legos (making an amusement park, complete with a carousel, ferris wheel and other rides) and my kids had been working with Duplos. Our Superintendent, @pammoran, connected the teachers and we decided to share our activities across the kids.
So who walks in, but this kid I have shared with you. And, as I gave him a big ‘ole hug, the first words out of his mouth were, “This is still my favorite class of all the ones I have been in!” He then sat on the floor and began talking to my kids with respect, with kindness and with laughter and joy. I caught him looking around and as the big kids were leaving, he pointed out (to his friends) things he remembered playing with as a K kid. Going out the door, he turned, caught my eye and smiled.
That’s championing kids!