At the beginning of my teaching career, I often felt very worried about how students behaved toward each other. I put the expectation on myself to create perfectly behaved, well-mannered kids to show off how awesome my classroom is, as some sort of reflection of my teaching skills.
As I’ve gained experience, I realize that it’s important to teach excellent behavior and manners, but it sometimes just doesn’t happen. Kids respond to each other in unexpected ways, often exploring boundaries. It is not a reflection of bad teaching or bad kids when conflicts occur. Rather, it is best to see these times as the most compelling teachable moments.
Our kindergarten teacher, Helen, tells of one recent teachable moment that arose from conflict. Her student said something unkind to another student. When she tracked him down, he got very angry, knowing trouble was inevitable, so she took him inside for a chat.
“Was that kind, what you did?” Helen asked.
“No.” He responded.
“Did you know that what you put into the world is what you get back from the world? If you say things like that to people, what will you get back?”
“I like to get love,” Helen explained.
“Why don’t you give out love, if you like to get it?”
“I don’t want to give it away, I want to keep it all to myself.”
Now, having gotten to the root of the problem, Helen continued, “You know, love is special because when you give it out, it will never run out. In fact, the more you give away, the more you make and you have more for yourself. Isn’t that wild? I don’t know how that works, but that’s just the way love works.”
The student was quite calm and thoughtful about this. As soon as they returned to the playground, he apologized to the other student.