10. One of Those Days

Did you ever have one of those days? We humans are always trying to explain why “those days” seem to happen. Drop into the teachers’ room on one of “those days” and you’ll hear the latest theory on what causes “those days.” A sugar high after a holiday. A snow day. An impending or recent vacation. A change in atmospheric pressure. Cabin fever. Spring fever. The end of the school year.
Do you know what I’m talking about? The day the class seems to fall apart. The day a certain child who is usually difficult to manage is suddenly impossible to manage. The day when all your best laid plans run amok. Murphy’s law and the law of the jungle seem to be the only laws. On those days, it’s a good thing teachers have each other. The anxious question, “Is it me?” is answered with a reassuring, “No, it’s them. My class is that way, too, today.” If it happens at home, single parents wish they had partners, and two-parent families wish there were a third parent.
Well, now that I can sit back as a volunteer and observe, I see that we adults are pretty much in sync with the children. Sugar highs, atmospheric pressure, etc. alter our moods as well, and like children, we blame other people. We don’t notice that we are behaving differently; we notice that they are. And they ought to do something about it! They should have more self-control.
There was one particular day I had a moment of clarity on the subject. I’m proud of that moment, and I’ll tell you about it. I won’t tell you about some other moments, and if someone else tells you, I’ll deny it ever happened. Besides, the class deserved it.
I came to school wishing it were summer vacation and knowing it was March. I put on a happy face, which lasted about five minutes. Soon I was snapping at the class. Then I had my moment. May all you parents and teachers have such moments. I said to the class, “Put your hand up if you think I’m in a bad mood.” Most hands went up. Then I said, “Put your hand up if you think it’s your fault.” Again, most hands went up. Finally, I said, “Well, it’s not your fault. I came here today in a bad mood. Put your hand up if that ever happens to you.” Most hands went up again. We talked about bad moods, how children and adults want to be treated when they’re in bad moods, how many of them were also in bad moods, how we could get through the day without doing or saying things we’d later regret.
That approach can’t work forever. We have to be models for children, controlling our behavior so that apologies aren’t necessary. But it can’t hurt, once in a while, to acknowledge that we’re human, and that we are dealing with the same stuff children have to deal with.
Later that day, a child came up to me during a quiet moment and said, “It’s okay, Mr. Blue. My parents blow their stacks all the time.” I knew the child’s parents, and knew the child had fairly patient, loving parents. I smiled.

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