Taking My Own Advice

I know I’m supposed to be talking about NaNoWriMo, but…. Yeah. I wrote a grand total of 516 words last week.

Remember how I was celebrating about everything being a breeze and me being ahead? Turns out all I was doing was burning out myself.

I really need to find a more reliable method of writing regularly.

All I need to do now is write about 5,000 words/day to get to my personal goal of 75,000. Easy!

But that’s not why I’m writing today. At the moment, I’m distracting myself from a looming writer’s block and in turn I’m being very productive.

A couple months ago, I took over a position as a 1st and 2nd grade teacher at church. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to be more involved and so I had been looking for ministries I could step into. And I knew I loved teaching.

I also have this bad habit of jumping blindly into things, and then being so stubborn that I refuse to back out and reevaluate things. Anyone who’s read my blog before may have some idea of the fact that I hate asking for help. I enjoy being self-sufficient. It’s a matter of pride, to be honest.

Even though I have minimal experience with this age group (I prefer 4th-6th graders, particularly because they can read, but also because they are a little sharper when it comes to my humor), I thought I could step in with little effort and quickly settle into a groove.

See, I got this idea because I’ve been babysitting since I was 13, and I thought that meant I knew things; like the fact that when first meeting kids as an authority figure, they will test you out to see how far you can be pushed. I knew that you had to stand firm and establish your authority right off, and then everything usually went swimmingly.

Evidently, I failed in this first step. It might be the weather, or the fact that we’re coming up on a full moon, but things have only got more and more chaotic and out of control since I took charge of this class. Somewhere along the line I gave the impression that I was a pushover and what I had to say didn’t matter.

I put this down to being alone in a room with 12+ kids every week and having to spend all of my time with the one trouble kid instead of teaching those who wanted to learn. Then I finally tracked down a helper (bless her patient soul) and discovered that the problem was worse.

Looks like I will have to be starting from scratch.

In all this time, I have done the minimal possible work with this class. There has been no effort on my part to come up with an engaging lesson geared toward these kids’ ages and lives. I know the fault is mine, but I’ve done little to mend the problem.

And then yesterday we were talking about the Christian character and wisdom. The girl in our story was struggling to master roller-blades and, after a bad accident involving a bush and scraped knees, she was contemplating giving up because she didn’t want to be embarrassed by continually failing. The kids are offered three courses of action for the heroine to take, and the correct course of action was to seek out a friend who could rollerblade and ask her for help.

I expounded upon the necessity of asking for help instead of giving up out of fear of failure or ridicule. I reminded the kids that they don’t know everything – I don’t know everything – and God put people in our lives who can teach us, if only we will ask them.

Oh.

Right.

I’ve tried to be honest and open with these kids and show them that I have failings. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to show 7-year-olds that their teacher, whom they must obey and respect, has so many faults. Aren’t we supposed to disguise that fact until they get a little older? I don’t have that answer, and I hate to think that being honest is the cause of all my problems.

But it doesn’t take me telling them plainly that I don’t know what I’m doing with this class for them to understand that.

At the end of another failed lesson yesterday with a record low 4 kids, all running rampant, I sat them down (or allowed them to continue to writhe silently on the floor) and asked them what it would take for them to enjoy class.

Ignoring the cries of “candy” and “drawing on the board”, I learned some things: they want to be involved; they want stories they can relate to, while the only materials I have are about kids who are several years older; they want arts and crafts and things to do with their hands.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been a bookworm since their age and can’t comprehend not being able to sit still and learn about far-away places. Maybe it’s because I haven’t given it enough time and effort. But slowly, the pieces are starting to fall into place.

So I made a mental note of their ideas, and this morning I sat down with my tea and oatmeal and started to research. And then I turned to the previous teacher, who has worked with kids for upwards of 15 years and does a better impression than I of having it all together. I asked her what I could do to reestablish my authority, and what I could do to keep the kids’ attention. And most importantly, I determined to not only listen but to take her advice to heart.

What really helped was her being honest with me and saying that it took time for her to find her own rhythm (and God keeps pounding patience, patience, patience into my head). She didn’t say it, but I know I don’t have to do things exactly like she did.

I also have her assurance that, should I need supplies like paper or candy, I can send my receipts to the church rather than have to rely on my own meager spending allowance.

So I took my own advice. I admitted my short-comings, sought out support and advice from someone with experience and time on their side, and opened my mind to looking at the problem from different angles.

We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, I have bedding to wash and a dishwasher to load and a book to finish and a treadmill to use and in an hour I’ll probably have more excuses for not writing. But somehow, I will still reach 75,000.

Maybe.

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