As a parent, it can be a huge relief when we send our kids off to spend time with someone else, and upon their return we find that they actually have been listening to everything we have been telling them for the last 5, 9, 11 years or so. If you are a parent you know what I mean. Our boys cannot seem to make it through a day, hour, sometimes minute without making a rude noise or comment or starting or perpetuating a petty argument, or blowout fight lately. Then, we send them to my brother in law, and he raves, "Those kids were awesome! They were polite, they worked hard, it was so much fun to have them around!" My husband and I haven't seen their awesome side in maybe a month now, so it is with mixed feelings that we receive this news. --Ok. . . they do hear us. But, why the heck don't they hear us. . . for US!!!
A similar situation occured today at a kid party that my daughter was invited to at a local bowling alley, but a bit different. It was my husband who reported to me two weeks ago, "Wow! She was so independent. She said to me, 'Dad, I am going to find my friends now.' and off she went. I watched her the whole way chatting with people she knew till she found her friends at the other end of the room." So today, I figured, "We are golden" . . . If you know kids well, you know this was my first mistake. So we arrive at the alley, and my daughter has somehow transformed into. . . da. . da. . da. . . VELCRO girl! She will not stop hanging off my arm or whining (who knows what, over the loud music) And after spending the last two weeks of animated anticipation of this event she tells me, "I just want to be with YOU mommy!" Sigh...
Both of these scenarios have a common thread of a child acting one way with a particular person, or setting, and another way with someone else. And to sew this thread into my thoughts on teaching, I think it is somewhat common for this fact of life with children to go overlooked by teachers or other school staff. I know that when my oldest son was struggling with behavior issues at his old school, the principal looked at us his parents as somehow creators of his misbehavior. I took him to task for this by reading Ross Greene's words from Lost at School at a team meeting (or two) I don't have the book in front of me now, but the idea came from a couple pages near the beginning that pshawed common assumptions that people make about kids who misbehave, one of those was that the parents were not teaching them the right way to behave.
On the other side of the fabric, my second son behaves fabulously at school, he is a great student, he is helpful to everyone and respectful to adults. When, at conference time I mention difficulties at home, the teacher gives that look without words, "couldn't be, what are you doing at home?" What I hear is that my son, "Is out of the 50's and behaves how children used to behave." At home though, every little thing that he "let ride" at school, he saves up for us. He is an anxious, worried, sometimes hateful mess of a kid, who takes all his frustrations out on his family.
It is exhausting whether you are parenting one of these kids or teaching them. But wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone stopped looking at children's behaviors and misbehaviors as some kind of static, predictable, all or nothing thing and realize that there are so many, many variables that affect how children behave with different people, in different settings, and at various times or days. I think it would go a long way toward parents and teachers collaborating as a team of support for children and each other, and that can only work to improve the learning experience.