The Weekly Smile

My smile for the week occurred yesterday in my first grade classroom, where I am an assistant teacher. One of the boys was working at his desk while I was standing nearby when he asked me, “Miss Lisa, will you come with me next year to my 2nd grade class?” This child is a a bit of a worrier and always thinking about the future. I was touched that he would ask and told him I wasn’t sure right now what I’d be doing next year, but you never know. I then told him we still had plenty of first grade to get through and it was a long way off. He agreed and said , “yeah, like a million days until then.

An hour later we went to lunch and he approached me while I was sitting with another teacher and asked, “Have you made your decision yet?” It made me smile and laugh, hearing such a maturely phrased question from a six year old, and apparently even though there were a million days until then he was still thinking about it.

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The Weekly Smile

The Myth of Maternal Instinct

I am a teacher’s assistant in a first grade classroom. I started as a volunteer years ago, and then became an employee. I love what I do, working with young children and helping them on their journey to learn how to read, to add and subtract. I am there when they cry (literally) out of frustration, and there when they accomplish something new to cheer right along with them.

This week  I was having a conversation with a teacher about the Head Teacher (HT) in one of the classrooms. HT is 53 and never married and has no children. HT is not the warm and fuzzy type, and often speaks to her students in what I consider to be a gruff and unfeeling manner. The teacher I was speaking with was talking about this, and said, “well she has no children, so she has no maternal instinct and it makes sense.” Immediately after those words left her mouth, this teacher realized I too, have no children and began to apologize profusely. It made me question exactly how “maternal instinct” and being a compassionate and nurturing person are entwined with one another. Or not.

I chose not to have children, and I wrote about it here last Mother’s Day. I consider myself to be an empathetic, compassionate, nurturing, person. That is just how I am. I have been this way since childhood. Having no desire to have children did not make me any less so. Having a nature with these ingredients may have made for being a good mother, if you didn’t take into account the other parts of my personality which would not have been. (lack of patience, fear, nervousness, to name a few) But does having children automatically make a person acquire maternal instinct? Does not having them mean you are incapable of understanding them?

The HT has been teaching for over 30 years, but I believe her nature is just not a nurturing and empathetic one. It has nothing to do with her not having children, it is just who she is, how she is wired, how she has always been. Her strength lies in her being a good educator, able to disseminate information in a clear and concise manner. Would she have become more “maternal” if she had children of her own? Maybe. Maybe not.

It pains me to think I would be thought of as not having “maternal instinct” based on my not having children. Take in the whole person before you judge or categorize, look at the person and think about who they are before assigning them labels.

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Worry, Worry, Worry

worryIs being a worrier something we are born with, or is it a learned behavior? Perhaps a combination of both? Scientific research suggests that worriers are not born that way, but their need to worry develops during their lifetime as an attempt to cope with both anxiety and with life challenges.

One of the boys in the first grade class where I am an assistant is a worrier. It is natural for a child his age to worry about some things, be anxious about new things going on, what is expected of them, will they be able to do and keep up with class work. The head teacher always “walks them through” a change in the typical routine by explaining clearly what is going to happen, and reinforces that she and I will be there for them if they have any questions. A few children will ask a question, but for the most part they just go with it, and move right along. Not this child. He agonizes over every change. School has been in session for almost 8 weeks and he is still afraid about getting lost going to the carpool room at dismissal and that he will miss his carpool. For the first 2 weeks I walked down with him and when his number was called made sure he got on line and went out with him to the car. Yet he is still worrying about it. The school psychologist is working with him and told me yesterday it is not just carpool, he is afraid of elevators, afraid of going to a new class for reading groups, the list goes on and on. Where did all this anxiety come from? He is only 6 years old.

Yesterday one of the worst possible scenarios presented itself in class. He had an accident. Fortunately none of the other students noticed and I was able to get him out of the classroom and get a change of clothes for him. On the way back to class he said to me, “My mother is going to kill me! She is going to go crazy!” Hiding my shock at this comment I asked him why, and he said “because she is going to want to know why I am not wearing my own pants and where are they!”

I wondered if his worrying was borne out of his mother’s attitude, her own nervousness imposed on a young child. I was raised by a nervous mother and grew up as a nervous and shy child, afraid of being wrong, of getting lost, of trying new things. I do believe my nature may have been such, just how I am “wired” but grew worse with the help of the nervous voice always in the background. Could this be the case with this child too? My heart broke from what he said to me, and we talked about it a little more.

I hope this year he will be able to shed some of his worries, will mature and with that become more confident and less afraid of the unknown. I know I will do everything in my power to help him along that road.