72. Exuberance

I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write about coping with children’s exuberance. I wanted to pick a moment when I was feeling exuberant, and could think about how it might be difficult for other people to deal with me. But as most writers know, ecstatic moments don’t make you feel like sitting around and writing. So when I woke up this morning to some rare, cool July air, I had breakfast, got on my electric scooter, travelled under the bluest sky you could imagine, past precocious autumnal flora, to Amherst center, and had coffee and chocolate cake. I acted kind of giddy, because that’s how I felt, but I didn’t get the disapproving looks that would have helped me write this article. Amherst is a college town, and has more than its share of exuberance, even on rainy days.
But I’ve had plenty of times when my enthusiasm bothered people. And there have been times when I’ve wished children would cool it (“chill out,” I think they call it, nowadays). Emotions – even popular ones like happiness – can be pesky little things when there are tasks to accomplish, issues to deal with. And so there have been times when part of me told a cheerful child to sit down, quiet down, and get to work, while another part of me wanted to celebrate with the child.
This won’t be one of those articles that spell out problems and then point you in the direction of solutions. It’s more of an apology. I apologize to that child who felt too good to be part of a regular old school day. Your joy really was contagious, and I did feel it. When I told you to sit back down and finish your work, it’s not what I really wanted to say. We’re supposed to say all those things, and we teachers, parents, and administrators often have good reasons
for asking you to control your enthusiasm. But many of us also feel the same excitement you feel. When you say something funny, we sometimes want to laugh – even in the middle of a lesson that isn’t supposed to be funny.
But really, please try to control yourself. There is work to be done. There will be time for you to celebrate. And maybe some day, like me, you’ll retire, and then only work when working is exactly what you feel like doing.

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