I sat down at the table. It was lunch and, when I looked down at my plate, I lost my appetite. The children were well aware of the situation, which is why they were smiling. They were anticipating my reaction.
“Boys and girls, you all know that I don’t like cucumbers,” I said.
Oh, they knew. They also knew the classroom custom of trying all the foods during meals. You have to at least try. Of course, children were never forced, just highly encouraged – or cleverly tricked. Whatever worked. However, teachers didn’t have the luxury. We had to try the food. You know, demonstrate to the children.
So I stared at my plate. I wasn’t being dramatic or exaggerating. I don’t like cucumbers. I don’t like them in other foods. I don’t like cucumbers in salads or wraps. I will never try cucumber water. I will never like mediterranean food because it seems like every dish is flavored with the vile vegetable. And, if I mistakingly order a plate that has cucumber in it, I will take the time to diligently pick out each piece.
But, this is not restaurant. It’s preschool. No picking.
“Boys and girls, I’m going to eat the cucumber. I know I don’t like it and I know I don’t like it because I tried it.” Blah blah blah. Kiddos knew the drill. They still smiled.
“But, I’m still going to try,” I said.
And I did. And then I let the children have it. I showed them the most disgusted, eye-clenching, mouth puckering face I could muster. The children giggled.
“And… pew…I still don’t like cucumbers. Ahhhh! But I still tried,” I shared as I tried to scrape the taste off my tongue with my teeth. “Where’s the milk?”
Moral of the Story: Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. It deepens relationships.
Teachers are not perfect. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean we have to show this aura of perfection in front of the children. I think there is a prevailing mindset that preschool teachers need to be the perfect example: make the right decision and say the right things. Although that may be true, that doesn’t mean that you can’t show your vulnerability or insecurities.
I’ve seen teachers scream over spiders.
I’ve seen teachers groan when they spill paint in their hair.
I groan and whine when there is cucumbers.
There is nothing wrong with showing these feelings. Absolutely nothing. It’s a human emotion. It’s normal. It doesn’t change when you get older. Children should know that it’s okay to show these feelings. So, in an effort to be the perfect role-model for our students, I show this side of me: because it’s an opportunity to show children I how handle that emotion.
For teachers that scream over scared spiders, they calm down and ask for help.
For teachers that spill paint in their hair, they show children how to wash it out.
For teachers that are forced fed cucumbers, they show that overcome there fears and take one for the team.
And don’t fake the emotion. Give children the real thing, not this fake exaggerated stuff. Giving them the real emotion helps them read the emotions in real life. Although I put a little theatrics into my reaction to the cucumber taste, my hesitancy, concern, and my quietness is real.
Children like seeing this scared, weak side. They like to see depth to their teacher’s personality. Think about it, you know you’ve reached a point in the relationship when children will come to you for help, or when their scared, or when they need comfort. It’s a sign that says “Teacher, I trust with this side of me because we have a good relationship.”
Guess what, that works in reverse too.