“The best way to make children good is to make them happy,” wrote Oscar Wilde. I try to keep that in mind whenever I’m fortunate to be a substitute teacher in a nearby elementary school. The rewards of working with the children are great. Take today, for example.
Are you learning a lot this year? I asked the kindergarten class, anticipating an unpredictable answer. I was not disappointed.
“Not really,” said one guileless little boy matter-of-factly.
“School’s almost over, so we’re relaxing now,” he explained.
I see. We started to watch a sing-along music video.
“I’ve seen this a hundred thousand times,” said Hailie.
“I’ve seen it a hundred million times,” countered Aidan.
One-upmanship already at their age? I wondered.
Despite her professed familiarity with the content, Hailie would turn repeatedly to me and ask, “Can we dance?”
Let’s wait until the end of the video, I said, not willing to risk losing my tenuous grip on classroom decorum.
With about five minutes remaining until lunch, Hailey asked again. Recalling Wilde’s wise words, I relented and gave Hailey the O.K. to dance. But the moment she rose and began to move, one of the three class aides barked, “Who said you could get up!”
“He did,” Hailie said, hooking her thumb at me as I tried to affect an unabashed look.
Wait, why did I feel guilty? I probably felt more of a kinship at that moment with the children. After all, they appeared quite happy and their behavior was admirable.