You know, I’ve been around the block enough times that I shouldn’t have been quite so shocked the first time I heard those four words come from a young student’s lips. Maybe it was because I genuinely saw the proferred activity as a reward, a break, a fun time-out from the regular classroom routine. Or maybe it’s because I’m (possibly) old-fashioned. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’m right and saying it at all was actually a little bit out of line?
So here’s what went down. It was my regular grade two French class, on an overcast Friday afternoon at the end of a long week. The students had been working hard all week and I thought it would be a nice treat for them to watch an episode of one of their favourite TV cartoons in French. We do this on a somewhat regular basis – the kids love to watch things like The Magic Schoolbus or Max & Ruby in French, and the darkened room with the SmartBoard turned on is usually greeted by cheers and applause, because it always means something fun.
But last week, about three minutes in to the show, a student approached me where I was marking workbooks at the back of the room. She is a sweet, timid and hardworking little soul, and I presumed she was going to ask, “puis-j’aller aux toilettes?” (may I go to the washroom). Instead, she looked me in the eye and said, “Madame, actually, I don’t want to watch this video.”
I think I must have looked flabbergasted, because she continued, “…I just don’t feel like it.”
Now, stop me if I’m way off track, but WHAT THE…??? I mean, I’ve had kids tell me “I don’t get it” or “this is too hard”; I’ve even had kids groan with frustration because they don’t like the assignment, but I’ve only recently had students brazen it out like that and say “I don’t want to”. And the worst part of it is, this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I’ve had other little children (I mostly teach grades 1-3) recently tell me “I don’t want to” as well. Whether it’s reading a story, writing out vocabulary or even drawing an illustration to go along with their writing, I’ve had more than one student stop their work, look up at me and say, “I don’t want to do this.”
Now, I don’t want to come across like some cantankerous old crone who always says, “back in my day no child would ever dream of …”, but seriously: would you have ever told your teacher “I don’t want to”? And even today, as I work hard to raise my daughters to be confident, self-sufficient young women who know how to ask for what they need, I sincerely hope I have instilled in them enough respect for their teachers, and a sense of their role as students, that they would never, never dream of it either.
So what do you think? Should we celebrate these children for their courage to stand up to the adults in their world and ask for what they want? Should we congratulate them for being confident enough to share their true feelings, no matter how non-conformist they may be? Or am I on the right track with these students of mine who just don’t want to, when I tell them, “well, I’m sorry you don’t want to, but it’s what your teacher has asked you to do, so please do it.”
Jeez. Kids these days!