Kids Can Be Meanny Heads!

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.


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  1. #1 by Peripheral Vision on October 4, 2007 - 7:18 am

    A love so deep it gives me chest pain and insomnia.

  2. #2 by MJ Hohman on October 8, 2007 - 6:25 am

    It’s always the darkest hour just before the dawn…

    At 3 1/2 weeks in it may just be transformation, the new class finding their identity and an end to the “honeymoon” of the new school year. Everything has a shadow side, it’s the balance to the light.

    These dynamics happen everywhere, energy is contagious. It is how it is dealt with that matters. The beauty of this classroom is that the kids (and adults) have a chance to stop and discuss what is happening.

    Most schools are so focused on outcomes that they don’t have the time or resources to address feelings and behaviors. They either try to ignore or smooth over the rough spots in order to get to the ‘curriculum’. This truly is the living classroom. You live, discuss and process throughout the day.

    Understanding feelings and behaviors is so important yet under valued in our society. These are life skills that so many people are sadly missing. And I can tell you that as upset as I am sure Alex was in the moment, he did not take it home with him. We talked about it being a hard day and he moved on. Allowing the kids to process allows them to move this energy through their bodies and not internalize it. that is huge. And the pictures taken the next day in the trees speaks volumes.

    You and Paul are doing awesome work. We put a lot of thought into where Alex should be this year and every day I am so elated with our choice. It may be a testament to you and Paul that a day like this happened so early on. Kids are sometimes on their ‘best behavior’ when they are uncertain and fall apart
    or “misbehave” when they feel they are in a safe space (usually at home). I think the kids realize this is a safe space and it will allow them to truly bloom. How lucky we all are that you are an extension of our home(s). Our extended community that is helping us raise our children.

  3. #3 by RISEOUT on October 9, 2007 - 1:59 am

    Thank you MJ for your beautiful and inspiring insight. Michelle and I are humbled and honored to have your son a part of the class dynamic. He his gleaming in compassion and understanding. He is after all, I call: Our “philosopher king!”

  1. A Hard Day « The Living Classroom

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