It’s been over a week since I was last with my students. (These long winter breaks are lovely.*) That means I’ve had some time to slow down a bit and reflect on our time together. There are certainly things I think about that bring me great joy and make me proud of both them and me. But I am a teacher and that seems to mean I look extra hard at when we aren’t getting where I want us to be. Especially me.
One of the things that frustrates me most about my students (and my own children and other random children and adults, to be totally honest) is that so often they assume the worst about their classmates. They assume that another child is laughing at them, even when often that laughter has absolutely nothing to do with them. They assume another child bumped into them on purpose. They assume another child took a toy or crayon or book just because they wanted it. And so on.
Maybe this is a typical developmental thing as they are still at a pretty egocentric age. Maybe they make these assumptions because they still believe everything is about them. Others must be laughing at them or taking things to spite them or bumping them intentionally because the other option is that it really has nothing to do with them and that makes no sense at eight. I can see how that might be true. (Of course, even accepting that won’t stop me from working to get them to assume positive intentions.)
However, as frustrated as I get at my students for making negative assumptions, I am even more frustrated at myself for doing the same.
I assume students are talking because they are disrespectful rather than because they’re excited about our learning. I assume students are goofing off because they are looking off into the distance rather than recognizing how often that is them thinking deeply. I assume students are trying to annoy each other rather than realizing they are playing together. I assume students are loud in the hallway because they don’t care about others around them rather than recognizing that they don’t realize how loud they are. I make negative assumptions all the time and respond in kind.
How can I expect my students to presume positive intentions if I’m not modeling that for them?
*When my youngest was in 1st grade I was also teaching first graders at the same school. As a result, she and I knew many of the same kiddos that year. We had a two week winter break and I can remember talking to her about some of her friends and asking about some of the kids who had been in her kindergarten class. At one point I said, “Oh yes, Brenda. Is Brenda in your class this year?” She looked at me incredulously and said, “Mom. Brenda is in your class.”
Maybe a two week break is too long for me.