Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Puppy Love

This morning I substituted in a kindergarten classroom. When one of the little girls came in the door, she stopped in her tracks, eyed me, and quite emphatically said, "Whoa, what are youuuu doing here?"

To which I replied, "Well, good morning to you, too, dear."

I thought, at that point, that it might be a blog-worthy exchange...until 4th grade happened this afternoon.

Specifically, one pre-pre-pubescent 4th grader happened, who we shall refer to as "Romeo".

And here you were, reading the title and thinking this was another post about Royal. Oh, how wrong you were.

There I was, minding my own business, just passing out papers to the class before the end of the day.

Romeo: "Mrs. Phillips, I would gladly take a bullet for you."

Me: "Hmm. That's quite generous of you." (I walk away thinking, "that's quite the line! Surely he's just heard that somewhere and has no idea what that even means.")

And then, as the rest of the students were lining up the door, Romeo asked if he could tell me something to the side "real quick". I had no advance warning of what was to come next. (Except for that whole "take a bullet" thing. Yeah, I guess that should've been a clue.)

Romeo: "I'm like, really, pretty much in love with you."

Me: "Oh!"

Okay, before you pass judgement on my lackluster response, what would you have said, to a 9-year-old, in-the-moment like that? With a classroom full of students about to head out the door, I might add! Sure, in hindsight I can think of several other responses ("I'm married! ... "Do you have ANY idea how old I am?! ... "Gross!"),  but again, I was kind of put on the spot there.

I'm hoping (and it's entirely probable) that he'll forget he ever felt this way. However, given his boldness in expressing his (...gulp...) "love", I may just have the chance to express my very-much-non-mutual feelings another day. Probably won't use the "Gross!" response, though, so rest assured.... 

Me: "How do you know you're in love?"

Romeo: "Pretty much just how you look. (face turning red) ... I think I have a problem."

Yes, child, I'd say you do.

I'm more on-guard against such "feelings" when I'm teaching in, oh, a middle school classroom. (Although, I'm usually forced to be so strict when dealing with 8th graders that I'm quite certain my demeanor negates any feelings of attraction! Not a bad thing.) But, I've never before (to my knowledge, anyway) been the object of a 4th grader's affection. So, note to self: 4th grade boys can think they're in love. Yikes. Who knew?!

Romeo is surely innocent enough...an expression of "puppy love" at its best. But this is, of course, a somewhat delicate situation to be in. There are far too many incidences of inappropriate behavior in school environments and so my awareness is heightened of the importance of my thoughtful response...for those obvious reasons, and because it would also be inappropriate to carelessly crush a young man's confidence at a delicate age.  Given that confidence, I'm sure he will have many, many age-appropriate romances ahead of him. I hope he does. More importantly, I'm hopeful that he'll be taught that those romances should be based on far more than just appearance.

For now, though, he's just got to learn that hitting on the teacher isn't the wisest decision.

That'd be a good start...and I'll choose my words wisely.

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