Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Setting Priorities

Life with an almost-seven-year-old has gotten very interesting this week for some reason.  Kenny likes arts and crafts.  A lot.  Which is great and part of what most people enjoy about the little bugger, except when those arts and crafts have to take place at seven in the morning. 

I understand passion, I appreciate passion, but please- put your pants on and get ready for school, kiddo. 

So we've been having lots of talks about priorities, self control, needs and wants, and responsibility.  Fun times, right?  Oddly, it has been kind of fun (once the tantrum dies down), and it has been a challenge.  I think the challenge might be part of what makes it fun for me.  It has made me reconsider how to express rules as positive things- "do this" instead of "don't that"- and I hear tell that method is supposed to work better in getting people to do as asked. 

Of course, my brain typically thinks in "don't"s.  There are lots of ways to do something right, and I'm OK with most of those ways.  It's not easy to reframe "Don't jump on the couch!" as a positive, my brain ends up spitting out something that sounds like "Feel free to sit, lie, recline, stand (if necessary), or lounge on the couch" and about half way through the sentence, Ken's lost all interest.  I could reframe the request as "Show respect to our belongings" but that requires another hour of discussion on respect.  OK, doesn't really require, but that's what ends up happening with Kenny.  No wonder I'm exhausted by the end of the day.

Abstract concepts are such tough things to teach, with all those shades and nuances and interpretations and connotations.  The job is even more tricky when the person doing the teaching is still figuring out nuance, interpretation, and connotation as well.  But the process- learning with my kid instead of just getting him to follow orders- is so much more rewarding, even if less consistent initially.  Yeah, we have our slip-ups, but we're working on them together. 

At the same time, this is great timing for me to be doing all this reflecting on teaching, learning, and communication, because it lets me rethink and reword my teaching philosophy statement to more accurately reflect my practices.  It also reaffirms that my teaching philosophy isn't just crazy talk or ramblings, it's genuinely what I feel are best-practices and functional models for education.  No, college students aren't very similar to first-graders, at least not most of them, but those big abstract concepts like respect, self-control, priorities, responsibility, and learning styles are useful at any age.

And yes, I think I admitted to using my kid as a guinea pig for my own educational research.

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