He brought it on himself

My day sometimes starts with college students, then by end of day travels the range of students from a recent high school graduate to two 5-year-olds who will be going into kindergarten in the fall. I try to get college kids to think ‘critically’ and the 5-year-olds to print their names and count to 10.

Sometimes it’s easier to teach a child to draw the letter C, or O or H than it is to explain to an adult critical thinking sometimes has to replace the company rulebook. At the same time, it’s often easier to cross my fingers hoping no one passes out the first time they stand up in front of the class and introduce themselves than it is to keep the attention of a little one who decided five minutes into a tutoring session she’s worked enough for one day.

Then, more often than not, I’m off to an assignment where I have to switch from kindergarten mode to adult mode and ask halfway intelligent questions about an event I’m covering. The day I walk into an elected official’s office, for instance, and without thinking, ask if she studied her letters last week or if he needs to go to the bathroom or get a drink before we get started… that’s the day I’ll hang up my camera, notebook or gradebook.

Or all three.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the full range of students in one day. There were many times in recent years I’d start at Woodland, then head to Edison Darke County campus with mostly post-secondary students, then head to the Piqua campus where the vast majority of students were adult learners working on a career change. Those days are fascinating. Really.

I remember walking into the high school with a teacher one morning and getting into some small talk. I made an observation about ‘my’ kids. “I started the day yesterday with first graders,” I said, “then moved to high school, then adult learners; all in the same day. You know what I discovered?” I asked. She shook her head.

“Learning levels may be different but there are striking similarities in behavior, regardless of age.”

I don’t think she appreciated the comment. “Oh, I hope not,” she said.

Last week I met a young lady who proved my point. The day before, I worked with three 8-year-olds who were consumed with summer fever. They couldn’t sit still. One was alternately sitting in his chair, then – somehow – figured out how to lay sideways in it. Then back again. Another would sit for a few seconds, then she would climb behind it and look through the hole in the back. The third? He spent more time in other parts of the room than he did in his chair.

Then I met Editor Ryan Berry’s oldest daughter.

I often make trips to the M.E.’s office… questions, comments… you know, the “talk to the boss” thing? The first time I saw his oldest daughter, she was building something out of odds and ends. Had no clue what it was. The next time I stopped in she was behind his back drawing a quite realistic picture of her father on his white board.

It was hilarious.

The third time? She’d cut a “mouth” and two huge “eyelashes” out of a piece of paper and had taped them to her face. I cracked up, thankful she wasn’t a student I was trying to tutor at the moment. And yes, I remembered she just got her learner’s permit.

It proved my point. Behavior – adult or juvenile – doesn’t have an age limit. Editor Ryan has watched it in action through the years. I accept and work with it by choice. He has none, but if you know him you won’t feel sorry for him. He brought it on himself.

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