Reassurance

For a good portion of this school year I have been volunteering in a preschool by giving one boy in particular more one on one guidance. He had some really defiant behaviors at the beginning of the year with sudden outbursts of rage but, honestly, I have more faith in his positive behaviors than some of the other kids in the class now. He seldom engages in conversation but those moments where he does lock eye contact and addresses me personally are extremely heart lifting.

Last week I missed a day in the preschool due to my work schedule and the amount of homework assignments I had to complete. I sometimes wonder if the kids even really notice whether or not I’m there because this preschool is connected to the Education Program at CMU and they have volunteers and students coming in and out all the time. My doubt was stifled when I went into the preschool yesterday and the teachers told me my little friend was asking about me. He was saying, “Where’s Emily?” and “She coming?” Hearing that he was inquiring about my whereabouts really tickled me. It just reassures me that I am making an impact on these kid’s lives and his lack of tantrums and growth in group participation has showed me that sometimes all kids need is a little bit of extra attention- someone to be right there to interject when a situation seems to be too much for a child to handle.

I’m usually only in the preschool for the afternoon, but yesterday they were short a staff member and invited me to be a (paid) sub. Score! I was there from 8:30-3:00 and started the day off with a group of 4-5 year olds. It was the first day that was nice enough to go outside in a while, so we spent the majority of the time on the playground because…it’s preschool and we can…

One boy (we’ll call him Tommy) who I’ve heard the teachers mention before has challenging behaviors similar to my friend from the afternoon class. He’s known for breaking down into tears in the split second he decides something did not go his way. To me, he’s intriguing. To the regular education teachers, he’s hard to handle and frustrating. I tend to gravitate towards children with peculiar or “out of the norm” behaviors which justifies why I decided to major in Special Education. It’s hard for me to explain why other than I find challenging kids more interesting and they are a better example of incredible progress when they do master desired skills and behaviors.

Tommy and I were racing with another little boy on the playground and I’m not kidding when I say every single time Tommy did not win, he cried. And not just whining like, “aw, maaaan” no. I’m talking crying so hard his face was red and shouting, “cheater!” while pointing at the other kid who managed to outrun both of us every time. At first, I sat back. I watched how Tommy handled his own tears and how his classmates reacted to them. His classmates just ignored them and he eventually got off of the ground (because he had laid down, kicking and screaming) and wanted to race again. I told him that just him and I would race. I ran as fast as I could and even though I was going to let him beat me either way, he tested my quickness. I could only help him win so many times before another kid came in and stole first place and Tommy’s crying and screaming act prevailed.

I found myself sitting on the ground next to this hysterically crying child who is just telling me that he wants so badly to always come in first place when the teacher came and took over. At that point I had been dealing with his behaviors for 20 minutes or so and was thankful to get a break. After she took over and I moved on to pushing some kids on the swings, I had already forgotten about Tommy’s trying behaviors. That is, until the end of the day when both the main teachers came up to me and explained how impressed they were with how I can handle behaviors. They both said that Tommy just frustrates them beyond belief so they get their panties in a bundle which, in turn, just makes Tommy’s mood heighten even more.

I’m usually pretty cool headed. I think things through and will do anything in my power to avoid stress at all costs. I’ve taking multiple classes that emphasize how the behaviors of teachers and educators affect students and their learning. I want to be a teacher that gives out a relaxed, understanding vibe rather than one that gets stressed out about a three year old spilling her cup of milk over during snack time. I contribute my calmness in the classroom to my laid back personality that I apply in all aspects of my life and I don’t really think about it as much more than my general demeanor. 

I’ve been told that I need to get more excited more often. You know, jump up and down and scream when I see someone I haven’t seen in a while…or…something. I’m not really sure how that peppy thing works but the truth is, I do get excited. There has been plenty of times where I am excited beyond reason but nothing inside of me tells my body to shriek and flail my arms around. Nothing. It felt awesome to have two teachers acknowledge the excitement I feel when working with children who have different abilities but also tell me they are positive I’m going into the right field and they admire my efforts to relate to the children that they can’t seem to form a strong bond with.

I’ve been playing with the idea of possibly choosing a career path that might not fit my laid back personality as much as another job could. It has deterred me from being 100% sure about getting my teaching certificate until yesterday when I realized that just because I have a different outlook on how a classroom should be run and how much fun versus “work” should be done doesn’t mean I’m in the wrong. It doesn’t make me more susceptible to not finding a job and it doesn’t mean I have to change my opinions on education. All it means is that I have learned newer, more effective ways of teaching these little people than the teachers that have come before me. For the first time I really understood why, at the teacher program meeting, they told me that I was the face of future education.

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