By: Amy Bunge (March 13, 2014)
Maybe if I just whisper, “Pick some work”, or make eye contact while gesturing with my head for him to choose a material, he will “work”.
Okay, how long does he get to pretend those color tablets are part of his construction zone? Does no one else see that? Surely, I can just walk by and quietly suggest he use the materials appropriately.
Why is my child so loud?! Is it a boy thing that you must talk as if a football-field’s length apart from everyone?
Do I sound terrible? These are just a few of my thoughts as I observed my son in his primary classroom. These thoughts are one of the reasons I thought I may have to stop taking Friday Photos last year. I found myself lingering in the classroom, stressing over things my son was doing/not doing, and wondering, How many times can he walk around the classroom before choosing any work? (forgetting that children learn many things through observation). I had to remind myself numerous times that I was present to take photos, and I was not there for anything else. If I wanted to observe my son in his classroom, I didn’t need to be there under the guise of “Friday Photos”, I could just walk in whenever and observe from the window. After one particular instance, I found myself frustrated and talking to my husband about spending 10 minutes in the classroom without witnessing our son choose any materials. He told me, quite simply, “If you’re this upset, you should stop taking Friday Photos.”. He was right. If I could not be in my son’s space without feeling flooded with all these emotions, I had no business being there, and I was fooling myself if I thought I could. I was fooling myself even more if I thought I could do that without my son picking up on those emotions. More importantly, I was placing my own agenda above my child’s. My strong desire to see him working with particular materials was interfering with my ability to really see what he was doing.
Clearly, I got over all those thoughts and emotions, and now I work at OakHaven, and everything is wonderful!…. Well, not exactly. Frankly, it’s really tough some days. It is really, really tough when all I have to do is stroll out of my office and walk up a short flight of stairs to peer into my child’s class. It’s really tough to hear my child in the hallway, and not glance over. Imagine me saying, Don’t look. Don’t. Make. Eye contact., over and over to myself. It is still tough to just take pictures, just drop off a note, just go grab a cup of water; all without pausing and making sure he’s working. It is TOUGH not to let him run over and hug me and give me a kiss. Maybe you’re thinking, What’s the big deal? or You don’t let him hug you?! or It’s not that tough. (In that instance, you would be wrong, my friend). It’s a big deal because it’s not my space. It’s his, and I have to respect and honor that. I may be “in charge” at home and other places, but I’m not at school. Because I see so much, it would be very easy for me to bring things up in the car or at home, but I don’t. And, no, I don’t corner Miss Sarah and ask her about things, either. I still operate under the rule, “If Miss Sarah wants me to know, she will tell me.”.
In fact, for many of the reasons stated above, I try to limit appearances in my son’s classroom. We have conversations about when it’s appropriate to hug Mom. Yes, you read that correctly. I remind him when he is in the classroom, that is work time, and when I come into his class, I am doing my work. I tell him, “There are so many times and places you can run over and give me a big hug”, and we talk about those times and places (outside on the playground, in the NAM when I pick him up, at home). Admittedly, it seems odd to have that conversation with him, but I know it is right. I know that an important part of making this situation work is setting boundaries. I don’t do it to be cruel (If anything, it’s hurting me not to snatch up all the hugs I can get), I do it to be respectful of my son, his peers, and his teachers. I’m respecting my son by instilling boundaries and limits. I am respecting his peers by understanding the importance of uninterrupted concentration and attention (which is broken if I allow my child to run over and hug me). I am respecting the teachers by handing over the reigns and letting them handle situations that (gasp!) involve my own child.
While there are some tough parts to my job, there are certainly perks. I work side-by-side with women, and Mr. Fred, that I respect and hold in such high regard. I have the privilege of not only witnessing my own child’s work and interactions, but the work and interactions of all the children. I get to witness your child helping another child button or unbutton his painting smock. I get to see all the elementary presentations. Daily, I get to witness the sense of pride your child receives after correctly naming all 50 states or creating a flower arrangement. I frequently receive said flower arrangements. I get to watch all the children play outside and sometimes be privy to their imaginations. I also get to see one child comfort another child uncertain about the day ahead; making her smile when no adult could. Then, I get to witness those children walk into school, hand-in-hand. And those are moments I am ever so grateful for. I am grateful for the “problems” of working where my child goes to school. I am grateful to be at OakHaven. I am grateful for my Montessori education.