Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Importance of Modeling for Children and Students: Español de Maestra

As a teacher, I understand the importance of modeling.  No, I don't mean the type of modeling that Tyra Banks does.  Kids learn primarily by copying.  That was underscored in my family when my husband honked the horn, and my then two-year old daughter reflexively responded with a crystal clear "Fucking asshole."  If you want your child to read, read yourself.  If you want your kid to have good table manners, model them. 

I am having a bit of difficulty, though, with the "delaying gratification" policy, which involves not catering to your child's every demand right away, with modeling.  Let me explain.  When my daughter asks me to see the surprise she has for me (and, usually, the surprise involves her coopting something of mine in an unintended, and unpleasant, usage), I usually tell her that I will be with her in a minute, because I am in the middle of something.  But, then, when I ask her to, say, brush her teeth or get dressed, she tells me to "wait".  Hmmm.  This seems like a no-win scenario.  I don't want her to think my purpose on earth is to serve her every whim, but she turns the tables on me and makes me wait!!!

Gandhi was famously approached by a mother who wanted him to speak to her child about avoiding sweets.  He agreed, but instead of telling him to not eat sugar, he asked the youth to return in a few days.  When the child returned, it was only then that Gandhi asked the youngster to refrain from eating so many sweets.  The mother, confused, asked the Great One why he didn't just ask the child to avoid sweets the first time; why did they have to return in order for him to ask her son to refrain from snacking?  He replied that, when he was first asked to tell the child to curb his sweet-tooth, Gandhi was still enjoying confections himself.  "I could not ask him to stop eating sweets so long as I had not stopped eating sweets".

And, so it is with parents.  If you have bad habits, your children will imitate.  The old "do as I say, not as I do" line never worked, and never will.

I'm pretty sure my
Spanish comes across
 something like this
 care tag
One of my main goals in the classroom is getting students to try.  If math is not their forte, that's okay; If they try it, eventually they will become better.  And, so, I model that with my Spanish.  Most of my pupil's parents speak Spanish and no English, so if I am to communicate with them, unfortunately it is me who has to attempt to speak another language.  The fact that this is true is, of course, not new to anyone, but it does highlight one of the problem those parents have stressing the importance of education if they themselves haven't bothered to learn the basics of the language of this country.  So, I end up stumbling my way through my "español de maestra".  Am I fluent?  No.  Do I sound ridiculous?  Yes.  But am I trying?  Yes, and my Spanish is slowly improving, despite many, many silly mistakes.  I can never remember that "antes" is before and "despues" is after.  I have once told a parent that there is homework every god: "dias" and "Dios" are awfully similiar.  And, just today, I told a parent that the signature was "borracho" instead of "borrado".  The latter means "erased"; the former is "drunk".  Oh, yes, my students enjoy hearing me mangle the language.  But, like Gandhi, if I am to ask my students to try something that they are not good at, I have to do the same.

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