Friday, January 30, 2009

I Don't Love Children

People who profess to mystify me. Children are like everything else--some are good and some, not so much. I wouldn't claim to love all people, because some of them are assholes. (Or maybe I'm the asshole and I just displace it onto certain others?) Unfortunately, kids can be the same way. There are a lot of kids out there that are silly and goofy and annoying, but they're not mean. There a few kids out there that do mean things with malicious intent. I really don't like those kids, because I really don't like those adults, and forgiving someone for wrongdoing, no matter how evil, just because he or she is under a certain age, does no one any favors.

That said, while I don't love all children, I do tend to love my students. And it sneaks up on me without me realizing it.

Dgirl is caught between wanting to be a kid and wanting to be a Cool Teenager. She's got the smirk and the attitude, but just stare her down for a minute and she'll crack in less than thirty seconds. She has an adorable, playful grin and she's definitely goofy, wanting attention and love and feeling bereft when she gets in trouble. She played with my hair, made fun of my clothes (Miss, you don't match!!!, as if the world would end without one hundred percent color coordination), and loved me and I loved her back.
I miss her.

Dboy is short, loud, brash, brutally honest and occasionally hilarious. He can't control himself--correction: most of the time he doesn't want to control his behavior. But he is pretty smart and loves to learn things and feel successful. He loves the power of controlling a class and entertaining his peers, and lashes out when he gets in trouble. But he has a quick smile and is willing to forgive and move on.
I miss him, too.

T is a trip. This child does.not.shut.up. He has a comment for everything and anything. He will talk whether you or anyone else is listening, and like so many other kids, will talk to himself out loud whenever he feels like it. He tells people to shut up and prides himself on his fashion sense; one of the first things he told me about himself was his love of shopping. His grades are atrocious and his teachers often want to strangle him because of the constant chatter. As this year wore on, his third at this school, he started working harder and we started noticing. When you give him A Look, he immediately blurts, "Sorry, sorry, I'm working, I want to learn." He can pay attention and he can share an interesting and interested opinion in discussion. He loves to giggle. He would trample somebody if it meant he could help with something. He can be *really* frustrating, but it's worth it because I got to see him improve and tell him I'm fighting for him.
I miss him.

Everything about Big J is big--his height, his attitude, and his intelligence. He thinks he's above everybody--because he kind of is. He picks things up almost instantly and can ace a quiz without completing the notes; he absorbes and processes just by reading. He can be extremely nasty, loud, crude, and rude--to his teachers and his peers. He has no qualms about calling names and calling out people on their crap. He doesn't care about detention or parent phone calls. I'm still not sure what exactly he does care about--but I'm pretty sure that eventually I grew on him. After a few months of attempted toughness on my part, he slowed the disruptions and rudeness toward me. I noticed that he would drop by my room after lunch and sort of linger around the doorway before I shooed him off to class. One day he came all the way inside and plopped down on a chair in the back of the room. "J," I said sternly, "you know I love you. But you have to go to class." "Whyyyyy?" he whined. "Bye," I replied.
I miss him.

R was a handful. That's the understatement of the year, hoo boy. He had a problem all the time. With other kids, with the work, with his seat, with the temperature, you name it, it was to blame for his lack of success. I quickly noticed that he rarely read anything and it made me wander just how much he *could* read. We never got to that though. He was extremely loud and expressive--his pout was extreme. (Not like it affected me; I'm a world-class pouter and have yet to be impressed by any student efforts.) On the occasion that he wanted to participate (as opposed to turning around and talking nonstop to other kids), he wouldn't stop at raising his hand--no ma'am. The hand would wave, then his whole arm would move, all the while his mouth moving. "Miss? Why aren't you calling on me? Look, she's ignoring me. Miss! Miss! I'm raising my hand! MISS!" I'm quite sure that I wasn't alone in often wanting to toss him out the window. Occasionally, though, the real person would peek through his bravado. One on one, if I didn't make too many sudden moves, he would be helpful and honest about what was happening. He immediately said things like "No." and "I don't want to." but if you left him he eventually would. (About tasks outside of class; he never completed a classwork task all year.) One day I was in my classroom with the knitting kids. He was walking by with another kid and stopped in his tracks. He charged in the room and demanded, "I want to do that." He professed not to care about his behavior tracking grades, but when the number was low, he would be all, "What?! What?! Why did you give me that? No! It should be higher!" And when I would talk to him about that, he'd scoff, "Psh, I don't care about that." I'd say, "Yes you do, I know you do. You don't have to say it, but I know it." He'd roll his eyes. When he earned a good behavior grade, and he saw a good number, his beam of joy was pretty freaking awesome to behold.
I miss him.

Quiet E remains an enigma. She never failed to do her classwork, and almost always had excellent homework. She and her sister were absent kind of a lot, and I don't think they ever talked to anyone about what was going on at home to make them miss school. She (both of them actually) is a voracious reader. She's not very emotive, so it was all the more gratifying when I could get her to smile or god forbid laugh. She understood most things very well very quickly and showed a good level of curiosity and analytical skills. Her quiz scores were quite high.
I miss her, but because I feel like I didn't reach her enough or at all. She was always a little standoffish and I didn't know what she needed. I liked her as a person, though, and I want to know how she fares.

Perfect C is just that--perfect. She is extremely smart, participates in all discussions, completes all of her classwork, gets the highest quiz grades, follows directions the first time, does well on her homework, reads high level books. She is Going Places.
And strangely, I don't miss her.
I realized that it's because she doesn't need me. She doesn't really need any teacher to inspire or encourage her. She's got enough internal motivation (and obviously an excellent role model in her family) to do extremely well on her own. I wish her well and I always praised her, and occasionally offered some extra information or a book that might interest or challenge her. But at this level I didn't have anything special enough to grab her attention or love, because she didn't really need it. She definitely needs more challenges and a faster pace, but that school, in that class (which as a whole, though they seem advanced, are merely at grade level), is not going to do it for her. She's the kind that will sign up for AP prep courses and rock them, once she's finally up against something she's not perfect at and she can get to work acquiring new skills and knowledge.

I often wonder what will happen to these kids and the rest, this year and beyond. I wonder if they learned anything in my class. I wonder if they hate me (Perfect C did by my last week) or if they miss me. I wonder if they talk about me. I wonder what their grades are like. I wonder how they did on their test this week, considering the huge disruptions to their classes earlier this month. I wonder if any of them loved me back.


Anonymous said...

I wonder the same thing every time I walk out the door - will they remember me in 20 years or will I be just another blip on their school radar?

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

When I was nudged out of The Mountain School back in November, I had to force myself not to think about my students and what was going to happen with them in my absence. If they crop up in my memories today, I simply say, "I wish you well." I'm not going to get bogged down in a morass of worry about them. For my own sanity's sake, I have to be dispassionate.

Teacher said...

Of course they love you. That's the thing about kids... they know b.s. and they know when people love them. They are old enough, they will remember you. Now... first graders... I have no idea. I do not remember my first grade teacher, but I do remember my first grade student teacher. Strange.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

And weirder still-- they may love you even while they're acting like they hate you.

This one girl last year flat out stated baldly to my face, "I just don't like you." And when I didn't burst into sobbing gulping tears at this revelation I guess it intrigued her (my response? "So? And what does that have to do with your grade?") and now she's like a barnacle (or maybe the word I'm looking for is carbuncle) attached to me in a place I can't scratch.

And either way? I'm cool with that.

I hope you are doing well in your new life.

Miss Eyre said...

I know I'm late to this party, but I agree with your opening paragraph quite a lot. I love a great many of the kids I have taught, but there are a few...well, as my Irish friend would say, I was glad to see the back of them. They are a tiny minority, true. But some kids are mean, nasty, malicious children, from a sadly early age. I can work hard to reach them, I can do whatever I can to help them, I can treat them with gentleness and dignity, but I cannot like them.