Can’t stop the teacher seemed like the logical title for this little blurb. Or maybe can’t stop the parent. But the more I think about it, maybe it’s just plain old common sense. You can’t stop common sense.
It’s always been hard for me, as a teacher, to act like I’m off duty. Just as I’m sure it’s hard for off-duty police officers to ignore potential problems and citizens on the fringe of breaking the law, it’s difficult for me to let teachable moments pass by or, as it sometimes seem, to not redirect or reprimand children who need it, whether they are in my charge or not.
Today I was out walking with my dog, along the river path and back through my neighborhood. I came upon a home with a fenced yard, where three children were playing–a preschooler and two older girls around the ages of five and seven. My first thought was how nice it was that the kids were playing outside. But as I got closer, I heard the boy crying and saw that he was running away from the girls. It was a small yard and he couldn’t get very far from them. Both girls were carrying sticks and, as I walked by, I thought I saw the oldest girl throw her stick at the boy’s head. I wasn’t sure.
But then she bent over and picked up a larger stick. It looked like a piece of firewood. And as I watched, she hurled it at the boy’s head, from a distance of about ten feet. Luckily, he ducked and screamed and ran away.
“Hey!” I yelled. All three of them stopped, the girl’s mouth drooping open. Who could be yelling at her? Who was even watching her?
“You stop throwing sticks at him,” I said in my loud, firm teacher voice. “It’s dangerous and it’s mean.”
The girl said nothing, did nothing, just continued gaping at me.
I don’t know if it’s appropriate to reprimand other people’s children, especially when the kids are in their own yard. But I can’t help myself. A young child was getting tormented and no one was around. Where was the parent, the babysitter, whomever should have done this instead of me?
You can’t just turn kids loose and expect all to go well. Someone needs to be there, to parent, to teach. It’s a matter of common sense, isn’t it?
The episode reminded me of when my kids were toddlers and we went to the park and how my inner teacher/inner parent/inner common sense was impossible to control. I can’t tell you how many children, in addition to my own, I taught to not throw sand at others, to not push the younger, slower kids down the slide just to speed things along, to not walk in front of the swings. It seems I was always the teacher on recess duty, the playground police woman, the woman who wouldn’t just sit on the bench and read a book like many of the other moms seemed to be doing.
There have been times over the years when I’ve told myself to turn it off, ignore it, just walk on by. But when I did, when I did just walk on by because it was, theoretically, none of my concern, not my responsibility, not my business, I always felt bad afterward. I knew I had missed a teachable moment, even if the only lesson was that hey, people are watching you and you can’t do whatever you feel like doing. You need to be thinking and acting morally and appropriately.
So what’s your opinion? Should I just mind my own business (try to, anyway)? Do you ever get involved in situations like these? How do you feel afterward?