“I can’t always give you a reason right then,” I told my class. “If you want to talk about the reasons, after class is the best time. I’m asking you to trust me, to trust that I have a reason when I ask you to do something a specific way.”
The entire time I talked, the thought was running in the back of my mind; “this is my entire parenting philosophy distilled into a nutshell.” I wanted to burst out laughing because it doesn’t ever seem to work on my kids!
Every so often we’ll have a class where I ask the students to do something one very specific way. For example, our last project was learning how to paint gradations from light to dark: I asked them to pick one color plus white and black. My son wanted to do more than one color. Some of my other students had grand ideas and wonderful directions they wanted to take their project, and I had to say “not this time.”
A time and place
I realized during that class that I needed my students to understand something I frequently articulate as a parent: when to question, and when to obey. It’s a fine line – I want my kids to think critically. I want them to ask the hard questions, but I need them to understand WHEN to ask the hard questions.
If I tell my son “get out of the street!” I do not need him to challenge me. I don’t need him to argue with me that the driver had motioned us to cross. I don’t want to have to physically stop him – twice! – before he gets hit by a car. I just need him to obey RIGHT THEN and discuss it with me later.
Working with negotiators
Obviously art class isn’t as critical as that example! Still, it’s an important classroom concept that my students may not be used to as homeschoolers. My kids certainly aren’t, for sure. Today was art class, but it was also more. Social expectations? How to act appropriately in a classroom? Something like that.
My kids are all accomplished negotiators. Most of my students are quite adept at negotiating as well. Some teachers might find that frustrating or disrespectful, but I don’t. Partially because I’m used to it and expect it, and partially because I want these kids to be independent, critical thinkers. Even if it complicates class at times, I like it this way!
Can you trust me?
Now that we had that discussion, I can remind them “I have a reason for this, can you trust me?” I’m not telling them to be quiet or stop asking questions. I’m asking them to trust me and wait until the best time to ask. It’s a big difference – a cognitive change in how we view, respect, and respond to kids.
Today, I asked them to do multiple specific things for the project we’re on. It’s a slightly complicated project that requires 2 classes to finish. I’m proud of them! They all worked really hard for what looked like very little result – next week, they get to put it all together and see what they’ve made. When we’re done, I’m going to point out the specific lessons I wanted them to learn so that they can understand the why behind the how. It’s important!
We adults don’t like doing something just because we’re told to, so why should we expect kids to be any different?