Thursday, March 23, 2017

sol17-23 Who are we?

I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Note - you know you are using new "thinking" muscles when you wake up in the middle of the night with a clear idea for a slice...that's exactly what happened here, proving this daily writing challenge is such a good habit! 

Let's call her Lillian. She is one of my calm, predictable children. She is always eager to see what is happening in a small group, 'ready to go' when you call her name. She is pleasant with her classmates, going along with their ideas and sometimes suggesting her own. I would like to hear a more independent voice from her, I'd like to hear more of her ideas. In conflicts, she might be reduced to tears and come find me to help resolve, but she is never physical in her reactions. Although this last note is such an asset in a bustling classroom of preschoolers, I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. In short, we adore Lillian and she is a very engaged and happy preschooler.

Fast forward - Dad comes to pick Lillian up at the end of the school day; he has picked up her older brother Calvin first. Calvin is a third grader and, though I never taught him, I sense that he has much the same temperament as his sister. It is atypical for Dad to pick up Calvin first; typically Lillian goes with Dad to get Calvin. Anyhow, Calvin is happily finishing his classroom snack, a packet of fruit snacks.

Here's where I was simply stunned -

Lillian rushes over to him and loudly, vehemently demands "Give me one!" and Calvin smiles, turns his body away from her, and says "No, they are all gone" and takes his last bite with a satisfied gulp. Without a moment's hesitation, Lillian starts to beat on Calvin - both fists, bam, bam, bam. The older brother giggles and moves away quickly, but Lillian screams at him and begins to chase him down. I have never seen her angry like this! (Deftly, Dad grabs Lillian by the hand and quickly exits the room with both children.)

Truly, from my perspective - Lillian went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

I wonder, how hard is it for Lillian to be so 'good' each day in preschool? Is school simply a safer place, surrounded by people who she knows less well? Or, is she 'on guard' at school? Is this a good thing? (For my daily reality as her teacher, it is certainly a good thing - my work would be so much more difficult if she were so physical in her conflicts!)

I think about how attuned I was to her social-emotional learning - how I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. I bet these words would sound pretty funny to her family, who know her best in her role as sibling to Calvin.

Who are we, really?
Are we our real selves around family?
Do we act differently with different people?
When are we wearing a mask, acting a role, doing something less authentic?


  1. Certainly I could share a few stories where I know that my students (middle-schoolers) acted different at home with just the parents, or a few times acted different when they were with me and their parents. These are children that would never throw a tantrum, were good learners, had friends, and I enjoyed them. But one student one time told me she was visiting this other student for dinner, & the host student was angry that they didn't have what she wanted for dinner & threw her plate to the floor. I know that kids feel "safer" at home, but your child's behavior and my student's still seem over the top. What interesting observations, Maureen & behaviors.

    1. Yes, the behavior seemed over the top to me, too. It makes me wonder! Certainly, my eyes are wide open now, and I'll be watching her a little more closely.

  2. What an interesting vignette! I know my own children (now adults) were much better behaved when they were elsewhere than at home, but I don't remember anything as dramatic as this. As you say, I wonder how hard she is working to be so calm at school? Or maybe she isn't?

  3. Yes, it was my hope, too, that my own children save their most challenging behavior for home. Maybe that is what is troubling me here - Lillian didn't save this behavior for home. Makes me wonder!