Wednesday, March 24, 2010

just keep crying

I'm going to make a terrible father.

I've discovered that I have this uncanny ability to make my students cry. Not all students, mind you. Just the more babyish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to crying. I think it's a healthy release in moderation and a necessary part of experiencing grief or extreme joy. But this is starting to get ridiculous.

Last session I had one student who would cry at the drop of a hat if I did something he perceived as being "unfair" (such as punishing him when he did bad things). When I asked my Korean coworkers what to do in this situation, the general advice was "just rub him on the back and tell him it's okay," and other such conciliatory remarks. I tried it. He just cried more. Duh.

Finally, I got tired of it, and tired of having to teach my class over the loud sobs of an 11 year old. I tried making him go sit in the hall, but then his crying was just bothering everyone on the floor. I tried to give him the chance to go to the washroom and wash his face, but to no avail. Finally, I told him "John, you either stop crying in my classroom or you can go sit downstairs and talk to Ms. Tammy (my boss)." Sure enough, within a few sniffles, he had his pencil in hand and was back to work.

That was then, and this is now.

Now I have a 10 year old named Alice who, yet again, cries at the slightest correction that I offer. Not every time, mind you, but at least once a week or so. I suppose I should find a friendlier way to say "looks like you misspelled 'airport'." Talking to my coworkers, I found out that she's been like that since kindergarten. SINCE KINDERGARTEN. Holy crap. It's hard to imagine the cause. Perhaps ultra strict parents who expect nothing less than perfection. Maybe there's something else going on and this is merely the trigger for her to start crying. Whatever it is, it's driving me nuts.

I haven't gotten tough with her yet, but next time I'm bringing out the ol' "I'll give you something to cry about," routine. Well, maybe not, but I'm going to let her know that this isn't kindergarten and that she needs to do her work like everyone else (which, in that class, is one other it gets really awkward sometimes). Or, as my Korean coworker says, "Alice, stop being small." I'm really hoping that we can encourage her to view mistakes as possible learning experiences instead of focusing on the failure. But misspelled a freakin' word. Get over it.

At this point I just want to laugh at them when they start crying and hope that my mockery compels them to stop.

I told you, I'm going to make a terrible father.


  1. Hey, I have an idea that might fail miserably, but heck, it's an idea. What about if while you're teaching her, you write a word on the board and purposefully misspell it. Now there are two possibilities. If it's a word they already know, you can hope that somebody in the room identifies your error, in which case you simply shrug it off by saying, "Oops, you're right, I made a mistake on that one. Let me fix it." The other possibility is that it's a word they don't know (or they just don't correct you), and then a moment later, you look at the board with a confused expression, then say, "Oops, I made a mistake." And then you correct it.

    My thought is that by demonstrating that you made a mistake, and then just coped with it nonchalantly, by example you can teach her.

    Another idea is to have some fairly complex word come up while you're talking to them, and say you don't know how to spell it and you're going to try without looking it up. So then you go to the board and try. And be sure to spell it wrong. Then go look it up, and note that you spelled it wrong like I explained above, then correct it. Again, teaching them by example that it's ok to make mistakes.

  2. I will be praying that you know how to deal with it, Ryan.

    You will be a spectacular and fun father!

    And? I'm just putting my two cents's a control issue. They are using their tears to control the classroom. Gentle is not going to cut it. Pray and then respond firmly with this: You will stop using tears to control this classroom. It is selfish and affecting the other kids' good experience. If you continue to use tears to control, I will begin taking discipline measures.

  3. As the PE coach at my school barked at a kindergartner today: "You don't get to cry when it's your fault!"