The Crucial K-3 Years
● By Rick McGarry
Excerpt from Fanatically Formative by Bob Sornson.
Halfway through the morning Ms. Harris walked Leroy to class and introduced him to Mrs. Peterson. For such a young child, Leroy had the most amazing swagger. Other students were drawn to look at him as his teacher showed him the room, assigned him a seat, and then introduced him to his classmates. Looking around the classroom, Leroy settled in with a smile. It was just before lunch when he first tested the limits. He folded up his writing assignment without completing it, put it away into his folder without showing it to the teacher, tossed the folder on the floor, and leaning back in his chair gently rocked on the back legs of the chair with his arms folded authoritatively over his chest.
Noticing his rocking on the chair, Mrs. Peterson came next to him. “Leroy, are you feeling alright?”
“Yep. Just getting hungry. How long before lunch?”
“Oh, Leroy,” smiled Mrs. Peterson, “this is so sad. In this class we keep all four legs of the chair on the ground, and we wait for my signal before putting work away in the cupboard.”
“That’s fine,” said Leroy. “I’ll keep that in mind for tomorrow.” He continued to rock back in his chair.
Placing her experienced hand on the back of the chair and firmly holding it in place, Mrs. Peterson called for the class to clean up and get ready for lunch. When the tables were clean, and all the work had been put away in each student’s cupboard, she asked the children to get in line for lunch. Motioning for Leroy to stay in his chair, she asked Marcus to lead the group in a single file line to the cafeteria. The group exited the room, and the classroom was now quiet, and Mrs. Peterson waited.
“I’m hungry,” Leroy said after a moment.
“I need my lunch.”
“You sure do,” Mrs. Peterson agreed.
“Can I go now?” he asked sharply.
Standing next to him, feeling empathy for this strong-willed boy who wants to rule the world, Mrs. Peterson just shook her head. “We’ll talk about it just as soon as your voice is soft like mine.”
Leroy looked at her. He waited for a few seconds. Then in a soft voice, he said, “I want to go to lunch.”
“Thanks for using your kind voice. And I’ll be taking you to lunch as soon as I carefully teach you how we sit and how we put away our work.”
And then they practiced. Mrs. Peterson showed him correct sitting. Then he showed her back. Mrs. Peterson showed him how to finish his work, call the teacher to check, and then put it away in his cupboard. Then he showed her back.
She took him by the hand, then, and walked him to the cafeteria. She could tell he liked to hold her hand. “Today, I’ll make extra sure you know how things work in the cafeteria,” she promised, “and then you’ll know how to do it on your own tomorrow.” He held her hand tightly. As they walked down the hallway together, Leroy walked close to his teacher. She could feel him leaning slightly against her as they walked.
Look for Bob's article on Parenting with Empathy in the November issue of Livingston Parent Journal.