When I was twenty-three, I had a part-time job teaching preschool in a classroom of two-and three-year olds. I was one of the afternoon teachers, and the morning teachers were a dynamic mother/daughter team who worked extremely well together. To this day, I'm still a bit jealous of how close those two were--I don't think I could work in such close proximity with my mother on a daily basis! They team-taught a group of twenty little ones, and the amount I learned from them was tremendous. I'm sure I'll write lots of posts about the knowledge they imparted to me--the mother, as an amazing mentor, and the daughter, eventually as one of my closest friends (truly a soul sister in this life to this day)--but today, I wanted to write about something they taught me that I carried with me throughout the rest of my career, and hopefully always will.
You see, before I had the experience of working with these two women, I had worked in several childcares. Childcare can be a fun place, but it can also be scary. If you've hunted for a childcare for your own child, or worked in one that wasn't terrific, you know what I'm talking about. I have seen things go on in childcare that I don't want to get into right now but frightened me enough to choose the highest-rated care for my own children and do unannounced visits regularly. But the main thing that hardly ever happened in most of the places I worked was seeing adults laugh. Adults were stressed. Adults were managing chaos and trying to get through the day. Adults were worried about licensing visits, breaking up arguments, managing too many children, changing too many diapers.
And then I met these two women.
I don't remember the exact moment when I realized this situation was different. I knew the mother was sizing me up. The daughter seemed less interested in that, and more interested in planning, as well as in her little toddler in another room. It wasn't until I had the opportunity to do some work in the classroom that I realized something was different here. When one of the kids made a mistake, the adults looked at each other, laughed, and helped to clean it up. When the kids said something funny, it was actually funny to everyone. When somebody wasn't clear on what they were to do, everyone enjoyed a good laugh and directions got clarified. Nobody was put down or annoyed. Nobody was frustrated and irritated. There was an attitude of laughter, of love of life. I hadn't know working with children could be like that before.
Children do annoying things every day. As a matter of fact, I've been told by my teenagers (and sometimes other adults) that I do annoying things as well--although I'm not as convinced, but whatever. But children also do funny things, just like we do. Two days ago my mother, my daughter, and I were cleaning out some of my grandmother's old kitchen items. My grandmother passed away in 1999, so it was long overdue. My eleven year old kept announcing that we needed to take these things to "Antiques Rodeo Show" and make some money. When I truly couldn't contain my inner laughter any longer, I finally explained to her there was no rodeo; it was a ROAD show. After I had a good laugh, as did my mom, my daughter grinned, shrugged her shoulders, and said, "Oh, whatever, Mom!"
Laughter makes me a good teacher. If I can't laugh with my kids then what's the point? How much fun would we be if we didn't make each other laugh? Figuring out what's amusing to a three-year old is part of the fun in teaching them. Certain things are universally hilarious--knowing you're smarter than your teacher, saying the word "butt", playing chase, are all funny when you're three. When you're almost five, insane knock-knock jokes that make absolutely no sense are the bomb. My job isn't to point out that the joke made no sense; it's to rejoice in the fact that these kids have a hilarious sense of humor and THINK they've mastered something that they haven't yet, but are on the road to doing.
Every parent has a bajillion stories of the hilarious things their kids have done. My kids tended to do gross but funny things, so I won't share them here (in case someone has a weak stomach!). But suffice it to say that once I got over the shock that a person could actually perform certain acts, they were insanely funny and very memorable. And the fact I'm a teacher helps me be reminded that MY kids aren't the only ones with a weird sense of humor.
Laugh, laugh, laugh. Life is good with it.
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