Friday, March 03, 2006

Loyalty and Authority, Part II. And Attachment.

First of all, of course right after I write about how the kids respect me and I have authority, they all decide to act a fool and make me a liar (as we say around here). Of course, it was raining all day and they were too hyperactive... just goes to show that kids are never predictable! But still, I have it much easier than I would without 6 years in the community behind me...

OK, back to my loyalty, authority, and attachment theme.

Crazy days where kids are out of control notwithstanding, they do usually know that (in their words) I don't play. And even when they're off the hook (that means acting crazy), I can always remember that if I didn't have relationships with them and they didn't respect me, it would be all over.

I had a friend comment on that after he graciously chaperoned a field trip last week. (I have had many friends-to who I am extremely indebted-chaperone field trips. I'm never sure if they know what they're getting into or regret volunteering, but there are field trips that would not have been possible without them) I don't remember the exact conversation, but it was something along the lines of how he would have no standing at all with the kids except that they knew he had my recommendation.

It's interesting to me how this works. This particular friend was very good with the kids - a good mix of showing caring and respect while being firm and not backing down, which is where a lot of people have problems. (In fact, the kids had the best possible mix of comments about a chaperone - either he was their new best friend or the meanest person ever. In fact, I think it was the same kids who said both! That's a sign you're doing a good job with this group!) Also, I got my favorite chaperone quote ever today - we were at the Lawrence Hall of Science with its new dinosaur exhibit and my friend says with a totally straight face: "Get out of the dinosaur eggs before I count to three..."

However, even though he seemed to relate well to the kids, and to respect them and enjoy time with them, as a white person, it should have taken a long long time for the students to accept him at all, let alone accept him being "the boss of them." (As in "You're not the boss of me.") But because they knew this was a person I trusted, many of them attached on immediately. I think 4 or 5 kids asked him to come home and be their daddy, and while that sounds kind of freaky, it makes sense. Most of them don't have any safe men in their lives - so someone who their teacher trusts must be inherently safe. And because I love them, anyone I bring to them must love them too. So, even though I think this friend may have had to resort to threatening to get me a few times, most of the time the kids - although they whined and complained - obeyed. (I think.) I've seen the same response when my brother and sister come in to the school. It's interesting to me, especially since it took me SO LONG to win their trust and loyalty. Apparently I now have sort of an umbrella of authority now. And that is pronounced UM-brella (emphasis on the first syllable) around here.

One thing I can say about kids in the ghetto though - once you have their loyalty, you REALLY have their loyalty. It can't possibly be cool for an 8th grader who's trying to dress like 50 Cent to stop by the elementary school and say hi to his white 3rd grade teacher while she's stapling up bulletin boards. But they do.

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