200. “I’m Done”

Some children, for various reasons, like to be done with their work. It could be that there is some carrot at the end of the stick – that whatever the child is going to do after the work is done is so attractive that finishing is a high priority. Unless the teacher or parent has a good system of quality control, the child’s eagerness to be done can result in substandard work.
There’s also the sense of accomplishment in a job well done. That’s more like what we’re hoping for. We want children to stay with a task so that it gets done within a reasonable amount of time, and have enough of an investment in it so that it also represents the child’s skill, intelligence, and commitment.
Some children like to be done with their work because their work is hard, and maybe unpleasant. Some just like the feeling of being done. They like cloture. They like to close their books, hand in their papers, put their pencils away, and get on with whatever is supposed to happen next.
This is my two hundredth article. When 1995 was drawing to a close, I arbitrarily decided that I wanted to be done with two hundred articles before 1996, and I made it. To some of you, that may seem obsessive/compulsive. Or at least it may seem a little too neat. Knowing me, you may still think so. It depends on how you know me.
But I’m not done. Every once in a while, I think I’ve only got one or two more articles to write about parenting, teaching, and children. Then another subject comes up. If you’re reading this article in The Wellesley Townsman, it’s probably December, 1998. I don’t know whether I’ll ever have said all I want to say about the process of helping children live and grow.
When children tell me they’re done with their work, I ask them to stay while I look at it. They often don’t want to stay – they want to hand it in and be done with it. Staying, too often, means getting the work handed back and having to do more. They want to wash their hands of the work, not have to take another look.
Sometimes, I’ve had to do just what such children expect me to do – hand the work back for correction or elaboration. But I try to find times when I can unobtrusively appreciate the work a child has done, asking the child to stay and feel appreciated. Partly, I’m doing just what I seem to be doing – congratulating the child on a job well done. But I’m also trying to put that act of staying in a better light, hoping that “I’m done” will sometimes be replaced by “Look at this.”

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