Thursday, May 26, 2016

What The? No More

While in Chicago a few months ago, each time my grandson encountered me, he said, "What the?" I thought it was funny...and a little hurtful. Worse, it gave me a reason to give up working on our relationship. He is only a three year old and I am an adult, and yes, I needed to start acting like the adult. 

When my students asked me what the best part of my trip was, I didn't immediately know but asked, "Do you want to know the funniest part of the trip--it was my grandson." I told them about "What the?" and boy did we have a good laugh. Since it was now comedy, I had a reason to not care about his rejection. "What the?" became a kind of buzz phrase in the classroom. But one student saw the underbelly of my behavior and challenged me to improve my relationship with "What the?"

A real classroom is a place of reciprocal learning, and I had a lesson to learn. This time, I came to Chicago with high hopes of breaking down the wall between the three year old I was afraid of, and my weak, weak, self. 

I was aware of two important changes:
I was intent on thinking about his needs and feelings more than mine, and his mom and dad weren't around, so he had to depend on me.

One day I picked him up from preschool and as he was walking balance-beam style on the rim of a planter box, he tumbled and skinned his knees. He was brave but anxious to get home and band-aid the wound. 

When I was unbuckling his carseat, he must have been in a little more pain because he wanted me to hold him and carry him into the house. I picked him up and he wrapped himself tight around me. It was a full fledged hug and I was overcome with love for him--so much that I started to cry. When I told him I was crying because I loved him so much, he gave me a questioning/funny look, but then he smiled and started giggling this sweet laugh that was a kind of joy. We stood there and I told him repeatedly that I was crying because I loved him so much and he kept looking and smiling and we laughed and laughed joyously together.

We can't not love the people we serve. I just needed to serve the little fellow....and he hasn't said "What the?" to me once.

I told my teaching partner she could share this story with our students. They needed to know their encouragement had made a difference. In typical teacher student relationships, they were very very proud of my improvement.