I just wanted to share this completely true story.
So I'm sitting in the theater with my four year old 15 minutes before the movie -Ice Age 4- is about to start I'm eating popcorn, drinking soda and watching my daughter look around the theater. Suddenly, and almost out of nowhere, she proclaims a new rule.
"Dad. No more popcorn until the movie starts, ok?"
Huh? I didn't want to hear to that. There was nothing else to do until the movie started and the popcorn was all nice and warm and buttery. Besides, she's four! So I did what most adults do -I ignored her and kept eating.
After a few moments of this I heard her voice again "Um, dad. I said no more popcorn until the movie starts". Apparently, my kid was serious.
But she's also four years old and in my home, she is not the boss of me. Feeling a little indignant, I grabbed another piece from the bucket and took a bite. Then comes the voice again. "Dad, last time, no more popcorn until the movie starts".
Ok, reset. This kid is four years old and telling ME no? If there is such a thing as angrily ignoring someone, I did it. But this time, in order to avoid confrontation, I waited until her head was turned before I ate another piece of popcorn.
Her response was to turn her head and look at me -long and hard- just to make sure that she had my full attention before proclaiming; "Daaad, I've got my eye on you".
And then she kept staring.
It was a weird moment. She just kept starting at me (and I, at her). This kid is four years old and she was staring at me to make sure I didn't do something that I really wanted to do. And here I was -staring back.
A few silently intense moments like this passed before I -the forty year old educated man- reacted like a small child. I grabbed a fist full of popcorn, and stared at her as I took a big obnoxious bite -like I was taking a bite of an apple. And then got right in her face while I munched on the whole thing.
It was a knee-jerk reaction, and regrettably, a very sincere one. One that, in hindsight, probably wasn't my finest hour as a parent, but I wanted to let her know that this is what I think of being told "no" by someone who doesn't have the right to tell me no.
Teachers face moments like these all the time as we manage our classrooms. Students, like adults, don't like to be told what to do. They certainly don't like to be told "no". And they absolutely don't like being told "no" when they can't recognize any other (worthy) thing to do.
Hell, I'm forty and I still fell this way. But teachers avoid confrontations (like mine) by engaging students within the classroom experience that we offer (our lesson's activity or activities) and then managing their behavior toward the activity.
In this context, "managing behavior" becomes a very small component of student engagement. That's why they are two different areas of the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching (that's the framework upon which our observations and teaching artifacts will be based if NYC ever agrees to the new teacher evaluation system).
And, apparently, my four year old daughter figured this all out.
Because instead of slapping the popcorn out of my hand, or lecturing me a little more, my child completely changed tact. She gently rubbed my ear, gave me a little kiss on my cheek and said, "It's ok, da-da. Look. Just read what's on the screen to me, ok? Because I don't know all the words"
I then proceeded to read the movie trivia questions and answers to her out loud. As I did, I wasn't able to eat any popcorn (because I can't read out loud with food in my mouth). And my daughter just kept rubbing my ear while I did (in an awesome sign of trust, she even let me keep the popcorn on my lap!) Before long, the lights dimmed, the trailers began and she actually fed me my first piece.
Apparently, engaging someone in an activity in order to achieve the desired behavior is a somewhat natural thing.
My kid, the born teacher.