On a stunning day during recess one of my students came to me crying. Through the tears and gasping breath she said, “They told me I’m not perfect!”
When I asked for more information I learned that she had been jumping rope with others (quite a few of them in another grade and not kids she knows well). They told her the rope hit her foot and she’s sure it wasn’t her, it was another kid jumping with her.
It’s not clear to me if these other kids actually use the words “not perfect” with her or if that is what she took from the exchange. Either way, it clearly hurt. She’s eight years old and can still see herself as flawless. While it is important to recognize that we are all human, it is a tough lesson to learn.
The next day a group of three of my third graders came over. They were upset and claimed that fourth graders kicked them off the hill. The hill is a sloping area at one end of our field and it goes on for a long way. I couldn’t really understand how the fourth graders kicked them off. As I asked more questions, I noticed that no one was on the hill. So I said, “Well, the fourth graders aren’t there now.” They looked back over there and were clearly still not satisfied.
Again, I asked more questions and finally realized they wanted the complete hill to themselves. Not only that, they said, “We need the whole hill and field.” I’ll admit, I was so surprised I laughed. When I got my poker face back I told them they would have to share the hill and field with other students.
My natural reaction to both of these situations is to feel that these students should know better. They should have better coping strategies for these problems.
But they are third graders, not adults. This is when they are learning coping strategies for situations like these and many others. They are young enough to still be quite egocentric. Some of that is a good thing. I don’t want to squash their self-confidence or sense of value in themselves. I do want to help them extend that to other people around them.