This week at school I had to teach a character education lesson about positive vs. negative words. I used a Max Lucado book for children, "You Are Special." In this book the people run around giving each other gold stars (good) or gray dots (bad). To condense a long story....Punchinello, the main character, is covered in gray dots and his maker, Eli, helps him discover how to find his worth in his maker instead of other people. When he no longer cares what other people say, the gray dots all fall off.
The kids and I talked about positive words (gold stars).....it took them a really long time to create a list of positive words. Then we created the list of negative words (gray dots). I have bright children this year with very extensive vocabularies so I had to do a lot of censoring. I have been baffled by their expertise and familiarity with insults. Typically 6 year olds are decently limited with their insulting ability...."I don't want to play with you" and "You're not my friend" are the two most common. However, this year I have learned a few new phrases and have seen and heard some pretty bad stuff coming out of my babies' mouths. Examples, "You are a big fat b......" and "I f.....g hate you" Very unusual for this age group to fluently use profanity.
As we talked today, they made me cry. I held it in until they left for recess. You see, we discussed not using "gray dots" in our classroom any more this year. Most of them agreed, but then said, "Mrs. Kemp, but it's okay to use 'gray dots' when you're a grown-up." I told them that it's not okay, but no one is perfect and even Mrs. Kemp sometimes slips up and says things that I later regret. That's when they began telling the horrible stories that made me cry as they looked up at me with their tiny hearts breaking.
"Mrs. Kemp, my daddy says those gray dot words to my mommy all the time. That's why she can't stop crying."
"Mrs. Kemp, my daddy says those gray dot words too, and my mommy says we are going to move out."
"Mrs. Kemp, my brother says those gray dot words to me, and I don't think he loves me."
"Mrs. Kemp, my mommy says those gray dot words to me, and she is mad at me all the time. I can't ever make her be happy."
The stories went on and on while I just sat - stunned - trying not to cry in front of my children. Most of my students live in good homes, but it was unreal how much they have noticed about the way their parents treat each other. I certainly better understood why I am having to work so hard to create an atmosphere of respect. I was heartbroken by how many children question the security of their environment.
Pray for me to have great wisdom this year. I have an unmeasurable amount of influence on these small children. Pray that I will use it well and wisely.