Little Grownups

They aren’t, but sometimes it helps me to think of my students as little grownups. Specifically, I think of them as coworkers.

It has nothing to do with them, themselves, and everything to do with how I perceive and treat them.

I wouldn’t want my coworkers to ask me if they needed a tissue.

I wouldn’t force my coworkers to sit still for twenty minute stretches (or longer!).

I wouldn’t want my coworkers to be accustomed to my policing their bathroom use.

I would have a hard time justifying a task to another adult if they didn’t want to do it and I didn’t see the point in doing it myself.

Kids aren’t adults. But they will be one day. So, yes, they need basic social skills, and they have to go through motions like waiting in lines because those things won’t go away when they grow up. But there are some things I can justify to students: “We walk this way in the hall because another group of students is going the opposite direction, and we don’t want to have a traffic jam.” And there are some things that I can’t: “You don’t have to ask me if you need a tissue” is probably the biggest of those. (I did once have a coworker say to me, “That student just got up and got a tissue without asking? Who does she think she is?!” and I was just like, “Uh, someone with a runny nose?”)

I have fallen into the trap before, where I get so used to dealing with so many kids that I stop treating them with mutual humanity, and the relationship becomes more like one between a border collie and a flock of sheep instead. Have you ever watched a border collie in action? I don’t have that kind of energy! I prefer to remind myself that I am human, and so are my students. They can sometimes be little grownups in my eyes, and I can be a giant kid in theirs; it doesn’t mean we have any less to learn from each other. And if I really need to bend them to my will, I don’t need to force it. I can treat them as equals, and ask.

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