by Michael Murphy
“It’s Just Not Fair” is often heard throughout a preschool classroom, more so in an inclusive classroom such as Friendship Academy where students are treated and educated as individuals; meaning that praise is always given, but rewards are based on expectations of those individuals. We get excited for each and every achievement that happens in our classroom, but even the youngest of students notices when one student has a reward bin, or a penny board, or gets to take breaks after long activities. They catch on quick, they can get upset, they can sometimes be right.
As a teacher I explain the situation in ways they understand, ways they can remember. I dance until they smile, I offer them the world. They still know it is not a sticker but it is enough for the moment to let them forget.
As a preschool teacher, I get excited for all sorts of achievements. I may dance and sing more than I teach. A successful circle time, I dance. An awesome line in the hallway, I sing. A classroom of good listeners, I do both.
As a teacher of Friendship Academy it gets a little different. All types of students have all types of achievements. Friends utilize full sentences, I sing. Friends keep hands to themselves or find ways to control themselves in exciting activities, I dance. Friends make basic vocalizations, I do both. Friends engage in a flawless transition from one activity to another, I do both. Friends go a whole day without a meltdown, I do both. Friends engage in an activity and try their best for two minutes, I lose my mind for that.
What is really “just not fair” is that after all the work, after all the success, after all the praise and rewards. I don’t get to watch them grow anymore. They go off to elementary school. They work to be the good leaders in the classroom, the examples, the students who engage because they want to, not because they have to. And then I start from scratch, one step at a time. Maybe it is better this way because after all the leaps and bounds…
I’m running out of stickers.