Belonging is my act of defiance
My country is broken into pieces. I’m told the other pieces are alien and dangerous. And whether or not I voted for this American president, the polarized parts do not feel healthy to me.
In response to my country’s dysfunction, I have resolved to:
- I deleted the Facebook.
- I turned off the TV.
- I write letters to friends and send them in the mail.
- I consume more flavors of written news media, listen to stories that are not my own.
- I donate money.
- I go to organized marches.
The hardest: I volunteer in my kid’s classroom.
My kid goes to a neighborhood public school, with a rainbow of kids from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds. I am in her class once or twice a week for two hours at a time, working with kids on math or reading or gym. At first, I was not effective at classroom management. Twenty-two five-year olds? When two kids run out of the classroom, when they run out onto the playground without asking the teacher, when I ask them to come inside, when they ignore me, I don’t know what to do next. I want to help the kids stay safe. I want to help them have a good day.
Wanting to learn how, I started reading books.
In “Beyond Behavior Management”, Jenna Bilmes offers that there are six life skills children need, and that classroom management should underscore the development of these skills: Attachment, belonging, self-regulation, collaboration, contribution, and adaptability.
She says, “We know a child feels he belongs in the classroom community when he forms relationships with one or more children, when he is happy to arrive at school in the morning, and when he moves comfortably through the classroom environment.”
Belonging is feeling like part of a group. In essence, “Do I see myself in them.”
Two weeks ago, my kid’s teacher asked me haltingly, “Do you draw? I think you draw?”
Curious, I replied, “Why do you think I draw?”
She said, “You have a lot of art stuff.”
I laughed, embarrassed I'd been caught.
She wanted me to make little prompt cards for the classroom. Whenever a kid is done with his seat work, he chooses a prompt card that says something like, “Make a bookmark” or “Draw a picture of your favorite memory.” But many of the kids can’t read yet, so the teacher wanted a visual for each prompt.
I agreed to the project. For me, a two week project became a political act of defiance. Making beautiful things, nation-building and classroom management all became the same mission. At age five or fifty-five, the health of a people, a classroom or a country depend on the same essence,
“Do I see myself in them?”