krikketgirl: (Clean Dirt)
What with being a mom and having had the glorious opportunity to work at an elementary school for the past two years, I have some experience with kids. And since this weekend is Mother's Day, I was thinking about all the treasures of knowledge I have because of this experience. Some things kids have taught me:

Never treat an offering with contempt. It doesn't matter whether it's a hug, a coloring page, a cracked acorn, or a story about what happened at their friend's birthday party last night: whatever it is, it looms large in their minds and this person has chosen you to hear it. Not everything is relevant, and sometimes comments need to be curtailed--but never, never go the route of contempt or disrespect. Respect that this person looked at you and wanted to make an offering of some type to you.

The most important person is the one right in front of you. Tolstoy knew this years before I did, but it really comes home to you in a school. There might be 400 people streaming through the hallway, but the one who needs your attention is the one right in front of you, claiming your attention. You can't change the world all at once for all those kids, but you may be given the chance to change it a little for the one who is in front of you...and then the next one...and then the next one. Use that opportunity.

Every person--no matter how small--deserves confidentiality. Patron confidentiality is a huge issue in libraries, and it's multiplied over in a school environment. But even small things should be respected, and kids need to know that what they tell you is not going to be blabbed to everyone. The correct answer to, "What was he telling you, Mrs. Rowland?" or "What did you say to her, Mrs. Rowland?" is, "That's none of your business, Nosy Parker." And you know what? There is something delicious in the look of a child who has had a very small utterance preserved in such a sacred way.

"Appropriate" doesn't mean that you're never silly. In the book Mr. Tanen's Ties, Mr. Tanen the principal is told that his goofy ties are not "appropriate" for a place of learning because they are too goofy. What the superintendent in the story learns is that goofy can be just as appropriate as sober--you just have to know when to use which one. As a teacher, I try to preserve a certain formality with students, most of the time. What delight is in the kids' eyes, then, when formal Mrs. Rowland giggles, or makes a play on words that makes the class laugh. A little nonsense, now and then, is treasured by the best of men...and women.

Simply love them. In Camelot, King Arthur asks how best to handle a woman...he is told that the best way is to "love her, simply love her, merely love her." In the end, I think that is the best way to handle people, too. Because when you love that person, you forget "how to handle children" or "how to handle men" or "how to handle friends" and start thinking, "What is appropriate for this person, for this relationship, for this moment?" People first, status second. So often we adults forget that children are people--real people, with real hopes and dreams and fears and strengths. We smile indulgently and laugh off their confessed plans and aspirations, or negate them: "Oh, but it's really hard to be an astronaut." "A JANITOR? Why in the world would you do THAT?" What a sad thing! If you ask questions and only chuckle inwardly, you will learn something about the person inside that child--or inside that grown-up.

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krikketgirl

June 2015

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