Scratch That, Reverse It

Even after a mime demonstration that dissolved the class of four year olds into uncontrollable giggles, they could not wrap their heads around the idea that if they wanted to both go to the bathroom and get some water, they had to say that. Go to the water doesn’t work any better than get some bathroom does.

I mimed. I demonstrated. I explained. They laughed uproariously. I slipped out a giggle or two. But they just didn’t get it. Every half hour: “Teacher, may I get some water and bathroom please?”

On a particularly bad day, I got: “Teacher, may I go to the water and get some bathroom please?”

I felt like I was talking to Willy Wonka. Scratch that, reverse it.

Then, one day, the penny dropped. They got it. Actually, once the first one got it, it probably wasn’t too hard for the rest of them. When the first one, a permed and precocious little boy who gets horribly offended if I don’t put a smiley face in the corner of each workbook page he finishes, got it right, I did a happy dance somewhere between the funky chicken and “Stayin’ Alive”.

It may not have been pretty, but the kids sure thought it was funny. I’d dug my own grave by that point, because when the second one got it right, he wasn’t content with a high five. “Teacher, why no dance?”

The third was a tiny girl who will one day be staring down bikers and making them apologize for swearing. She didn’t even say anything about dancing, just looked at me and my outstretched hand with a look that said with perfect clarity, “You’re kidding, right?”

I did hear somewhere that effective teaching consists of equal parts having effective incentive systems and not being afraid to look like an idiot. I’m not sure whoever said that was thinking that the incentive systems should be having the teacher look like an idiot.


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