Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sometimes You Just Have to Pretend

It's getting to be that time in the school year when I just tell it like it is.  So much of our time together has slipped by, but I've got about a quarter of a school year left to shoot them straight now that I really know them.  And if you know me, you can imagine how interesting that can be.

One of my students sees everything in black and white.  It's either right or wrong, fair or not, makes sense or doesn't, and he's either all in or all out.  We've had some power struggles but we've also made a lot of powerful progress.  He beats to his own drum and does his own thing, but slowly I'm convincing him that sometimes you just have to bend a little.

Today we had an early dismissal.  On these days, we have lunch in our classroom at 12:00 and dismiss at 12:50, so not much happens after lunch.  As we cleaned up around 12:30, I told the students to pack up and choose one of three activities: unfinished work, homework or read a book.  As I looked around the room ten minutes later, every single student had complied with the directions- except my nonconformist.

"Get out a book, please," I said to him.  "Why?" came the well-rehearsed reply. "Because everyone else is doing something productive and you were instructed to do the same," I said.  "But I am doing something," came yet another retort, "I'm imagining."

His reply, though insubordinate, was so authentic that I almost stopped there.  But at that point I had 23 other sets of eyes watching me sideways to see what would happen next.  So I walked over to his desk and laid down a copy of Stuart Little.  "Then, hold this book, pretend to read, and imagine," I ordered.  His eyes widened, as did a couple of other sets of eyes at his table.  "So you're telling me to pretend?" he asked, and, of course, again, "Why?"

"Because not all your future teachers will be as nice as I am, and you're going to have to learn to do things the first time you're asked even if you're faking it," I explained. "Sometimes, you just have to pretend." I stifled I laugh as a mischievous boy nearby muttered, "I can teach you all about that," under his breath.

I know my advice today didn't fall under our minute-by-minute instructions for balanced literacy.  Pretending to read while imagining doesn't exactly substitute for self-selected reading.  But sometimes life lessons are more important than academics.

All through life, people are going to ask you to do things that you don't want to do.  Sometimes you have to dig deep and endure situations that you're not in a mental (or emotional) place to handle at the time.  But you've got to pick up the book, hold it in your hands, and pretend, even if you're just imagining, and even if (especially when) you don't understand why.  Sometimes it's not about you; it's about the person that asked you or the ones that are watching you.

Sometimes you just have to pretend.  Might as well teach them young...


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