Thursday, June 22, 2017

A "Joke-y" Teacher

I've not sat down to do the math, but I've sent hundreds of kids off into the world from the Woodland Park Cooperative School. For most of them, I was their first and only teacher, which means that, for better or worse, I've had both the responsibility and opportunity to shape children's expectations for what's to come. Some of that is conscious, like our curriculum of questioning authority, but most is just an unconscious manifestation of my personality and the pedagogy I've been developing over the years.

I often say that after my wife and daughter, all of my best friends are five-years-old. After all, these are the people with whom I've been hanging out, daily, for the better part of three years. We've been together through highs and lows, made life stories together, share inside jokes, and trust one another: the stuff from which best friends are made. That said, I know the friendship will fade, at least from their side, once they've moved on, but I hope the feeling of that relationship stays with them as they encounter their future teachers. 

Few things gratify me more than when alumni return to visit and enthuse about the wonders of their new teacher, and most of them do, even sometimes telling me that they like their new teacher "better." It doesn't hurt because I know that this new relationship is built upon the one we had. I want them to like their current teacher. By same token, there are few things that hurt more than when one of these children tell me they don't like their new teacher or, worse, that they wish they could return to preschool.

The whole subject matter is bitter sweet, of course, and my feelings would be just the opposite were I being told these things by their parent, but it's a central part of every teacher's job (or should be) to provide an experience for children that is right for them right now. I've tried to do that when the children were preschoolers and that's all I can do. When I speak with children who have moved on, that moment has passed for us. It's now someone else's job to provide that "just right" experience and if they're doing it right, they've earned the title "favorite."

One of my former best friends is enrolled in our current summer session. Yesterday, as we were re-discovering our friendship, talking about our year apart. He told me that he liked kindergarten. I asked, "Was your teacher nice?"

"Yes, really nice."

"That's good," I joked, "because you had a really mean preschool teacher."

It took him a beat to realize I was talking about myself, but when it clicked, he laughed. "You're not mean!"

"Thanks for saying that. I try to be nice."

He thought for a second, "You're not that nice!" It was his turn to tell a joke.


We laughed. He was then quiet for a moment, a smile still playing on his lips, eyes rolled up as if looking into his brain, then, "You're not mean or nice, you're more of a joke-y teacher. That's why I like coming here!" Best friends tell you the truth, especially when they know it will make you glow. His future teachers are the luckiest people on earth.

(I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!)

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: