Two girls were sitting on the couch in their classroom, one of them looking kind of down in the dumps. I came over and asked if I could help at all. One girl (call her T) explained that her friend (K) had 'gotten together' with a boy that had asked her out, and who had subsequently dumped her. Now I'm hoping these kids just 'go out', and don't 'do stuff' together, but we didn't get into that.
The dumped girl thought she had been dumped because the boy actually had a crush on T, but T was with another boy. At least, that was how I understood it. It all seemed a little convoluted, and I think they'd been going out for all of a day, but, whatever.
Now she was sad because of the dumping, but also because she had nobody to go to the disco with.
The disco is a school party (remember, there's all of 50 kids in this school) where they have music and dance and then they all have a giant sleepover party. The kids don't have to go 'with' someone, take a date, whatever- it's probably encouraged that they don't... But here was this 9 year old girl upset because she was friends with all of the boys but thought that the ones who would 'say yes' to going to the disco (I'm fairly certain they're all going regardless) were the ones she didn't like.
As she was telling me about this boy and that, and going out with this guy or that, I felt myself puffing up, ready to get all 'grown-up responsible adult' on them, full of self-righteousness.
After all, they're 9! They shouldn't be 'going out' with boys! They're too young! They should worry about that later! In like, 10 years! They need to stop worrying about boys! In fact, just be friends with them! Just because you like him, it doesn't mean anything! You're too young to know what love is! What you're feeling isn't real! You're just silly children!
And I thought back on me at that age.
I thought of our little club where you had to have a 'boyfriend' to get in.
I thought of secretly holding hands, and quick pecks on the lips that meant you'd 'really kissed'.
I thought of the politics we were involved with- him liking her, but her with him, and they just broke up so now she wants to go out with him....
I thought of how it all felt so real...
And I thought how how I had done what they're doing: they're not worse than we were, assuming they're not like, making out or having sex, or getting naked. So, I couldn't give that talk. I wouldn't be that lame adult.
"First of all, K, you don't need to take someone to this disco. So go with a friend. Or 3."
"Yeah, but... like... it might not be as much fun, if I don't go with a boy".
I looked at her, hard.
"Pick a friend who you know you'll have fun with. Pick a boy friend, or a girl and go there, and rock it. And when that boy who dumped you sees you having awesome fun, then he'll wish he hadn't dumped you. I think, as girls, we need to not worry about not going with a boy! We're ok on our own, or with our friends. And if you get there, and boys are dancing, and you want to dance with one, then great! You can dance with them! And if not- dance with your awesome, fun friend. Then you don't have to worry about going with a boy, and that boy not talking to you all night!"
I don't think she found my speech very inspirational. She couldn't let go of the idea that she needed to go with a boy to this disco.
And I find that a bit sad. This kid is 9. I get it, in highschool, when there's hormones, and you actually have a formal/prom or whatever, and it's a bit more lame to go on your own, but there's not this kind of culture at this school. I wonder if the boys feel like they need to 'take a girl' to this disco. I bet they don't.
Also, holy crap. As a teacher, we don't have classes on this. We have classes on treating kids equally, on what to do if they're being abused, about disabilities and gifted kids, but if kids are getting into 'relationships' in your class? If one kid dumps another kid and that affects their attitude while at school? How can you give a 9 year old girl relationship advice because she got dumped a day after being asked out? I told her boys are all idiots and she shouldn't waste her time, but I think this nearly made her cry. Maybe you're not meant to get 'close enough' to the kids for them to want to tell you this stuff? But that's not how I want to work.
Today was my first day with these older kids, and one by one I started to win their 'trust'. That is, getting them to look to me for advice, as well as their normal teacher. For two, it was just helping with their computers. Easy. For another- spelling, for one: spelling, but showing that nobody is perfect, so her not knowing how to spell something was ok because I wasn't 100% sure until I wrote it down myself. Breaking away the layers of suspicion that I'm a newcomer, to the point where I'm a friendly, knowledgable and helpful person...
I miss my little kids, though. These guys are hard work on that front. Here's how it went with (most) of the younger kids:
"Everybody, this is Emily, she's going to help out in our classroom!"
Instant acceptance. Three girls come up and hug me. Boys as me for help on their models.
To a degree it's the same- there were some in that group who took work, or it took a few times of me helping them... but once I had it- they stopped asking their teacher, and asked me. Buahahaha. Should I stage a coup?!