Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Teaching That Which We Cannot Do

You know that saying that goes, in part and paraphrased, "Those who can't do, teach."? Well, Hubby and I seem to be living examples of this.

We went to Sweetie's parent/teacher conference the other day. I had previously met her teacher at the parents open house the first week of school and I knew right then and there that I loved this woman. A long-time educator. Very dedicated! Very passionate! So enthusiastic! Years and years of exploring and adding to and adjusting her teaching philosophy. Just a really great teacher.

And now? She has increased my love for her by demonstrating how well she has watched, thought about, and now teaches and manages our Sweetie.

She has also pegged Sweetie probably better than anyone has ever been able to verbalize it before by stating:

"I don't think I have ever met anyone as comfortable in their own skin" as Sweetie is.

Wow. Yes. Exactly.

Sweetie is happy to play with the girls or the boys or by herself. She gets along with all her classmates and they all seem to like her. But the truth is, she'd prefer to spend recesses and free time playing on her own, making up plays or songs in her head and then acting them out.

If someone does think Sweetie's doing something a bit weird... eh. Sweetie doesn't care. Probably doesn't even recognize that someone else thinks her actions are odd. Sweetie knows she's having fun and that's all that matters to her.

We were at the Big Orange Box store this weekend, collecting parts and pieces for Sweetie's Halloween costume this year (a robot). One of the things we picked up was a small, plastic, blue pail that we'll spray paint silver. This will become her robot helmet. Well, Sweetie was wearing this blue pail on her head all throughout the store. Kids stared. Grownups smiled. One little girl asked her why she had a bucket on her head, to which Sweetie replied that it's going to be part of her robot costume (duh!). The girl looked at me and, with a smile, said, "She's silly." Did any of this embarrass Sweetie one little bit? Heck no! She was having fun! On her own! Not because others were paying attention to her. Hardly! No, she was plain old having fun, practicing her robot voice and Halloween look.

And speaking of Halloween costumes... who else but Sweetie would ever chose to be, and then revel in the act of being a stick of butter? Wouldn't kids think that was weird? How did she ever think of being something so odd? We may never know the answers to these questions, but I can tell you that little Miss Sweetie was nothing but pleased with herself - and her Daddy for making the costume - that particular year.

But. There is a downside to Sweetie's very internal, self confident nature. And that is that Sweetie lives on Sweetie time. Which is to say, since day one of Kindergarten, Sweetie has been a very competently skilled child - yes, but a very slow to action child. She'll get things done, for sure. She'll just get things done on her own time, thank you very much.

This has always been Sweetie's issue and continues to be her issue. But, at least for now, her teacher - after much thought - has decided that she won't make this be a real problem for Sweetie academically. Her teacher said she's thought about this a lot - whether or not she should truly get on Sweetie's case more to pick up the pace in her school work. But in the end, at least for now, she told us, "(Sweetie) isn't bothered by it (her own slow work speed), so I've decided I'm not going to be bothered by it."

She assured us that Sweetie is not "goofing off", day dreaming, or otherwise being distracted or trying to get out of doing school work. She's happily doing the work she's given. She's just a very careful, very slow "doer". And Lord help us if there is any creative aspect to the work that needs to be done! Any drawing or coloring of pictures, for instance. Such a project as that is doomed to take Sweetie twice again as long to complete. 

Hubby has always tried to impress upon Sweetie - knowing her typical slower pace - that we don't care how long it takes her to do something, as long as she's getting things right.

Well. We are having to change our tune a bit now.

Yes, it does matter how long it takes to get something done. I've explained to Sweetie, for instance, that she could write the most beautiful, detailed, creative story ever - a story that deserves the top grade! - but if that story's not ready to hand in until the day after the teacher says it's due... well, then. Your teacher has every right to give you the worst grade possible for your work.

Timing counts. Deadlines mean something. Now means now.

Getting back to Sweetie's comfortableness within her own skin... this means, too, that Sweetie is not affected by outside motivation. Her teacher has a coupon-based classroom in which students can earn and lose coupons based on things such as behavior and turning assignments in on time. But, see... Sweetie seems not all that interested in the coupons and what they can do for her (earn her prizes such as homework passes and snacks, among other things.) Such treats are nice, sure, but not nice enough to light a fire under her to get things done quicker.

Hubby and I see this as each year's birthday for her and Christmas rolls around. Sweetie rarely ever wants anything specific. She's not a very materialistic kid. I've had to gently guide her toward asking for whatever it is I know already she's going to be getting for Christmas. Last year, for instance, I felt she needed a sticker book because she has so many loose stickers around the house that she's collected from doctor's appointments and such and I thought it would be great for her to have a place to keep them all. And so, "a sticker book" became the thing she told people she really wanted from Santa last year.

(BTW - she got this sticker book and has not ONCE even opened it. Ever.)

Still. Comfortable within her own skin. Not shy. A careful worker. An interested student. A top student with her skills. A well-liked kid. Self motivated. Non-materialistic.

None - absolutely none of that - sounds bad to me at all.

And still, I wonder, how on Earth did we get a kid like this!

Hubby and I are both shy, quiet people - always have been, and still are. I am certainly not as self confident or comfortable with myself as I should or could be, and neither, I think, is he. He was a distracted, day dreaming student. I was a decent student who did enough to get by, but never interested enough to surpass. And we are both, sadly, way more materialistic than we should be. My materialistic nature, though, has settled down within the last several years, I admit. I'd be much happier with a gift of a fun experience than a physical gift these days, for instance. But Hubby, I think, still tends toward the material gifts. He surely knows the wonder and awesomeness that can exist in gifts of experience, but he also needs/wants new boots, new tools, new clothes, etc., etc., etc...

So how is it that he and I have so successfully taught the importance of confidence, hard work, and true gifts to our growing little girl?

And here I repeat my opening thoughts... Those who can't do, teach.

Our actual lessons remain a mystery to me still. But I see this above statement as absolutely the truth.

We were not/are not this way, my child. Therefore you will be.

I am motivated everyday to continue raising Sweetie just the way we have been, whether with purposeful lessons or happy "accidental" lessons "taught" on a daily basis, simply by seeing her flourish and grow and mature into the amazing little girl she continues to be.

We cannot do, but we are teaching well. Obviously.