If you know me, you most likely know that I love the chilluns. This wasn't always the case. I think I actually used to fear them a lot. The more I've worked with them over the years, the more I've learned about how they learn, how they see the world, and how justified my fears of them were. My basic advice: never underestimate a 5-year old. NEVER!
Okay, so I'm exaggerating a wee bit. Kids are actually pretty great and sometimes innocent. At the same time they're also much smarter and more powerful than we think. Talking to a kindergartner is a humbling and challenging thing. They catch everything you say, which means you have to be extra cautious about how you answer. For example. One little boy in the kindergarten class I work with called a girl bossy. Let's be honest... the girl WAS a total control freak. She was pretty upset though. I told the boy not to call someone bossy, no matter how bossy they were because calling people names makes you mean too. Yeah, yeah. Get all judgy. Clearly I was not already a pro with kids at the time, and I'm definitely still learning. You can guess what happened though... The smart little bugger twisted my words and told the girl, "Miss Rachel says I can't call you bossy even though you are." Don't worry. I corrected my misdeed, and he figured out that I meant always be nice even if you feel as though someone else has mistreated you. (When all else fails, refer to the Golden Rule. It would've saved me a LOT of embarrassment and trouble had I remembered the proper phrasing at the time.)
The fear of kids definitely went up after that experience.
The thing that scares me most is how much brilliance and profundity can fit into such compact-sized versions of humans. I mean, *what* ARE they? They're totally the little blue Priuses of the human world. This would also explain how they never run out of energy... they're fuel efficient! Just one Tang, and they can do 30 mpg on a standard highway at even the highest of speeds, if you catch my drift.. my Tokyo Drift (As in Fast & The Furious II). Duh-duh-chin! Moving on...
Another example of power run amuck in little ones happened when I was working with a 1st grade class. A little boy wrote a nice get well card to a boy that'd had the flu for some 2 weeks. It roughly went as follows, "Dear Name of Boy Which Now Slips Rachel's Mind, I hope you feel better sometime (not SOON as most people would say). You are a great kid and also pretty cool. I am Nicholas!" First of all, take time to appreciate the fact that he signed like a Roman emperor. No last name. No distracting, falsely sentimental closing words. He got to the point, expressed his own significance, and added a PUNCH to close the letter. All with three words. It made me think... What happened to my bold, unhampered wiles and wills? I WAS Rachel! And that directness got me into troubles at times. But it was real. It was honest. This just proves that we have much to learn from even youngins... We can especially see what we were like once and how simple it would be to be that radical again.
The primest thing of all happened in class the day after MLK Jr. Day though. The little 5-year olds were watching a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. At the portion of the film that discussed the boycotting of the buses, the teacher paused the video. She explained what it was and told them what a picket sign was. Then they of course started talking again, and the teacher got distracted by paperwork and the random kids that always ask to go to the bathroom even though clearly it's allowed. Then something I never would have expected happened. I thought they got nothing out of the movie. I doubted I would have understood the significance of boycotting when I was a wee one. Buuut...
Raine, the littlest of the littles, pounded her fists rhythmically on her desk and bellowed, "Un-pause it! Un-pause it! Un-pause it!" in time with the banging. Soon other small, yet gutsy voices joined in the "protest." More and more children began pounding the tables. Then they began following her lead as she stood, continuing to shout her demands. She then began lifting her arms up and down, pretending to be holding a sign with words demanding justice. Others followed suit, and soon the entire class was at the front of the classroom walking in a circle, shouting their desires and raising their imaginary picket signs. It was in that moment I realized that a person's a person, no matter how small. No matter how young. We all have something to stay. We all can be powerful. Yet somehow between 5 and 19 I lost my ability to grasp things quickly, listen, and express what I thought in the moment, mostly due to fear. I lost the idea that it was okay to challenge others and to lead others even at the risk of their judgment. Man, I want to be 5 again. Even though the teacher had no idea what the kids were exclaiming, they were saying *something*... something they believed. Yeah, this seems a little bit hyperbolic, but it really did change my perception of kids forever. They grasp things we don't and see things we won't. There will never stop being a need for their lessons, no matter how old or wise we allegedly become. Be bold like a 5-year old, people. Listen and react. Don't buy everything you hear, and challenge the things that seem wrong because they just might be. Wellll, that's that.