Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Battles with Nicolas

I like little kids generally. They are cute, innocent and honest in the way that only kids are. The kids here a Fundacion Mahatma Ghandi are no different. I've been working with about 15 of them, ages 6 through 8. I help them paint, make necklaces, or with whatever art or craft is scheduled for that day.

Mostly they are all smiles or laughter. They give me hugs, hold my hand or sit on my lap for no apparent reason. All very cute. But there are problems. They don't share. They grab others things. They hit. They scream. I, being a middle school teacher, am not entirely sure if this is what 6, 7, and 8 year olds do when misbehaving, or something else entirely.

When somebody takes someone else's things, the children raise the hue and cry of "PROFE!!!" (short for professor). They point at the offfender and then babble rapidly and incomphrensibly. I come, look at them, try to figure out the object is that is causing trouble and try to return it to the right party. It works by and large, except with one boy named Nicolas.

The other volunteers warned me about Nicolas. He does not play well with others. He likes to grab, yell, hit and scream. Worst of all he doesn't listen to the staff. The first day I let it slide, as I wasn't sure what discpline options I had (make him stand in the corner? send him outside?). The best tool in my classroom management box, the hairy eye ball, did nothing. He'd just stare back at me and smile.

The second day I came determined to impose some order. Soon enough I was given an opportunity. As we were rearrainging the class for another activity, Nicolas planted himself on the top of a stack of chairs that other children needed to sit in. I asked him to get down.

He said no.

Other children started to yell and him and tug at his chair. "Back away, I'll deal with this.", told them.

I again asked Nicolas to come down.

He said no.

I grabbed his chair, with him in it, and lifted him off the pile and sat him down. He clapped gleefully and asked me to do it again.

"No, and you need come down when I ask you. The other kids needed the chair and you were taking them all."

He ignored me and asked me to pick him up again.

"You're going to sit in the corner for five minutes."

He shook his head no.

So I picked him up again, chair and all, and put him in the corner. He got his wish and grinned triumphantly. The lead volunteer came around pass out art supplies. Drawing time! The kids love drawing. Nicolas started to scoot his chair toward the table. I blocked him. I grinned triumphantly. "5 minutes!"

He shook his head no and kept trying to get to the table. I, bigger and stronger, was able to keep the seven year old seated against the wall.

So he tried a new tactic, he started laughing and pointing at me. I ignored it for about 30 seconds. Then, I got annoyed. I asked him why he was crying.

He kept laughing. I asked him again, why are you crying? You keep crying, why?

He just kept laughing. Getting nowhere, I decided to go back to ignoring him. The other kids were drawing, they were laughing too, but in a happy way. Nicolas saw all this and tried to scoot his chair up to the table. "5 minutes." Only "3 now," he said. "Your time starts when you start behaving." Somewhere deep in my mind, memories of my parents stirred.

I started helping other kids, oohing and awwing over houses and flowers. Nicolas kicked me, softly in the rear end. "5 minutes I told him." "Only 2 now," he said. "No, 5 minutes starting when you behave."

And then, a miracle. He was quiet! I was victorious! He slumped in his seat and frowned his biggest frown. 5 minutes came and went. I felt satisfied.

Nonetheless, before I told him I was very glad he was here and that he's a good kid. I also told him that he needs to listen to the adults here, and that we are all team. If he sits on 6 chairs, 5 kids don't get a chair and that's not fair. He nodded his head and then joined his group, still sullen.

For the rest of the day, amazingly, there were no problems. No one grabbed anyone's things! I caught Nicolas' eye when I had a chance and winked at him. He smiled. Later, he asked me to look at his drawing, "What a pretty... house!" I finally decided it was, though it could have been a spider. He looked pleased. Best of all, later that day on the street he ran up and gave me a big hug!

The moral of this story? When kids (or adults for that matter) misbehave there's always some underlying motivation. Try to understand that and be compassionate. Discpline them but still love them, and kids will love you back!

That advice has been given me by more than one excellent teacher. I think it applies elsewhere in life too. It's also very hard to put into practice and I can think back on too many times this last year alone where I applied the discipline but not the love. But when it works it's great! Just thought I'd share...


Anonymous said...
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Meghan said...

I love this story, it makes me happy :)