I started working in developmental education when I was 20, a senior in college. I had very little training in education, no formal training at all, and yet I instantly found a connection with my students. I was silly. I was often preposterous. Most of all, I genuinely enjoyed my students.
|I was so young. I had no idea what I was doing.|
Over a decade later, I'm still working in developmental education, but in a very different environment. I am still getting the students that other teachers have labeled troublesome, deficient, delayed, problem, behaviorally challenged. In fact, in 2004 I gave birth to a son who would go on to be similarly labeled by the public school system (Ha! Thanks, Universe, for giving me my very own test subject!).
|My little social deviant in need of frequent in-school suspensions. In kindergarten.|
|He writes his S's backwards and spells "Pikshre" for "Picture." Adorable!|
Instinctively, I believe we should tell all six year olds that they are smart. Every single one of them.
I have a middle-schooler who is simply fantastic. Somewhere along the line she has been told she really stinks at math, so now she is in remediation for math. She has a flair for the dramatic (how's that for redundant: dramatic middle schooler!) and frequently puts herself down about how dumb she is. I think she is charming and nothing short of hilarious. At first, she was a little surprised I laughed at her jokes. Quite frankly, I was a little surprised everyone in the vicinity wasn't laughing at her jokes. Also, I take pictures of her drawings because they are awesome.
|This is Sad Giraffe. So sad. So freaking awesome.|
|This is the face I used to give people when I didn't like them. And then I wondered why they didn't like me, either.|
I've grown up a lot since then.
I had been thinking a lot about my positive success with students over the years, mostly about how just acting like I was thrilled to see them and thinking they are ever so smart and funny, and that they absolutely have something worthwhile to contribute changes them on an intrinsic level. And then I thought, what if -- WHAT IF! -- what if I started treating... wait for the epiphany... what if I started treating everyone like that? What if I started treating -- oh goodness, my brain is coming up with the impossible! -- people I don't like very much like that?
|It's Christmas, and I just pulled a miniature frying pan out of my gift bag.|
This face adequately expresses how I felt about my epiphany.
I'm game for social experiments. Why not? In all honesty, what's there to lose? I picked that one really hard-to-like person who had come unexpectedly into my life. This time, when I saw her, I smiled hugely and waved and generally acted extremely pleased to see her. When she said something funny, I laughed. Then one of the most interesting things happened. She began to not be so annoying. Or rather, I began to not be so annoyed by her. It's hard to pinpoint exactly who changed, her or me.
This social experiment is still in progress, but I think I'm on to something.