Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Return the Cheek

I was running down my town's main street a few days ago and, completely unexpectedly, something astonishing and awesome happened to me. It's school holidays in Australia at the moment and my country/outer-suburban town is packed full of roving youngsters such that I have to swerve on my drive home even more so than usual.

So there I was, puffing and dreaming about the finish point when, out of the corner of my eye, a green-helmeted about nine year old boy appeared riding a slender, jet-black bmx. At first, I thought he would whiz uneventfully by or, at most, stick out his hand for a passing high-five which is the customary practice of some of the other kids of the area. This kid was far more ambitious.

As he rode alongside me, he shot up a quick, cunning glance and a cheeky grin. I returned his smile, somewhat warily and the saga began.

He immediately released his grip from the handlebars and strutted his arms back and forth in an exaggerated running motion. It took me a few moments to register that I was being mocked, but I much more rapidly decided to respond, though I knew it would undoubtedly ruin the rest of my run.

No, I did not in an all so predictable teacher-like manner say "You shouldn't mock people", nor did I self-consciously alter my running style.

I shot the boy an arrogant grin and sprinted off, challenging him to a race. I lasted a mere 200 metres before he caught me. He raced ahead, spun his bike in a 180 degree motion and screeched to a stop.

My turn. I copied him on foot, making sure to look very proud of my loud skidding sneakers. He laughed and waved a cheerful goodbye, which I returned. It was one of those simply brilliant moments that you just wish someone had captured and uploaded to You Tube.

As I ran the rest of my route home, with a burning stich from my impromptu sprint, I thought about how awesomely and creatively cheeky kids can be and that, although that is sometimes the cause of great frustration, that is also one of the reasons I love working with them.

I also realised that sometimes the best and most rapport-building management strategy for cheek is to -  very carefully, respectfully and with humour - return it.


Beth Cregan said...

Great post Anna- just love your story

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Thanks Beth!

Anonymous said...

Great reflection, I love it! Two people sharing a spontaneous fun moment - is there anything more enjoyable? Your strategy could potentially have the most switched-off student looking forward to seeing you everyday, Anna.
Thank goodness you are going to be a teacher.

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Thanks Carolyn, that's so nice of you and I think the exact same about you.
I aim to use it sparingly so as not to encourage cheek but I have been learning more and more that humour and charisma are, I think, just as important elements of a teacher as our literacy and numeracy teaching skills and crucial for rapport-building.