Today our classroom was teeming with madness, meanness, and mischief; and no it was not a Monday. The weather between gusts of howling wind, flashes of lightning, an occasion crackle of thunder, and a burst of radiant light – somehow found its way into the classroom. The kid’s behavior seemed to be a direct reflection of the inclement weather. And two teachers were caught in a storm of madness, restlessness, and impulsiveness that sends even radical thinking teachers scratching at the blackboard for calmer seas.
On the brighter side, yes there were merry moments that I gripped like a found jewel, but overall these kiddos were out for blood. Squabbling over who sits where, tangling with twisted arms in the corner over marbles, spitting water in the face of a younger boy in another classroom, screaming at their top of one’s lungs when the point was to sing – and of course a swath of other disturbances that leaves you to begin questioning your own sanity.
Certainly we are two teachers who support anarchistic principles and direct democracy, but today literally wore us out. Our kids don’t know what boredom is because they’re always independent self-directed, and our classroom provides countless opportunities for interacting with a diversity of materials that are thoughtfully presented and mindful of their interests. We also offer weekly fieldtrips, ample time and space for free play, classes in Art, Spanish, dance, music, and cooking. And this is just a small taste of the curriculum. One thing these kids are not is bored.
We don’t supervise over them like prison wardens, we’re constantly conscious of respecting their autonomy, and we bestow a ton of trust in their natural born, indestructible drive to learn. But quite frankly, 19 kids with distinct craves for independence can occasionally bring out a degree of meanness – leaving the teacher to ponder: Are they watching violent movies or too much television on the brain? Did they all eat sugar coated frosted rainbow cereal, along with Pop Tarts for breakfast? Is it the weather or a full moon? Jesus, are they just being punks? Or, what the hell am I doing wrong?
But, in the end a daunting day finds a flicker of light among these darkened clouds. You begin to realize they play hard together four days out of the week, for six straight hours, while they loose their first teeth and learn to tie their shoes. Beneath those nuances and scrapping with each other you notice they all are entitled to poopy days. And you realize between the screams, cries, laughter, hackling, there is the sound of the wind, beckoning for one Ohmmmm… of breath, as they yearn for deeper connection. And you come to find out that meanness is just a distress sign for a need to relate, to find belonging, and to feel deeply loved.