Eduardo is not a fan of Social Skills Instruction.
I slipped him this little Whole Body Listening cue card during lunch group yesterday when I noticed, for the fifth time, that he was staring at the board games/ computer screen/ ceiling/etc. instead of at his conversational partners. He simply ripped it in half.
I checked in with him after sending the other kids off to recess: “Eduardo, what happened?”
“I don’t like Social!”
“You don’t like to be reminded of things like Whole Body Listening, huh?”
“I don’t want there to be Social, at all. So I ripped it. To make it go away.”
I am glad, for the record, that I am made of sturdier things than a printed piece of paper.
Eduardo’s response to me is similar at times. I greet him in the morning and he drops to the floor: “Oh no, you’re the SOCIAL TEACHER! I don’t like Social!” Standing behind him, his mother. She informs me, “While we were eating breakfast today, Eduardo told me that he hates it when you teach Social Skills during Lunch Group. I told him he could ask you to play a game instead.” Unsure of what front on which to attack this, I simply remark, “thank you for letting me know,” and retrieve Eduardo from behind the secretary’s desk; he scampered off while his mom was editing my lesson plans because paper clips are more fun than waiting and he must suddenly have all of them.
From Eduardo’s perspective, “Social” is boring and he already knows it because he’s smarter than the other “dumb babies” in his classroom. Social skills are “simple” and “stupid” and he needs things to be “complicated”. But the fact that Eduardo will yell all of these statements, to his social skills teacher in the presence of his kindergarten peers, implies that his mastery might be lower than he thinks.
At times, in Eduardo’s concrete understanding of things, the way to keep a thing from happening is to destroy all the paperwork connected to that thing. I imagine myself playing that out as a teacher, hovering my cursor over the folder labeled “Math”. I remember Finn, who was so much like Eduardo when he was this tender age, ripping up the Pathways when he realized where he’d gone wrong. I had to be pretty explicit with the reality that the map is etched, not just on paper, but in the minds of everyone who was part of the social experience he and I were trying, with Pathways, to understand.
For Eduardo, I need to be even more concrete. “My friend, I am showing you these papers, and I will continue to show you these papers, to help remind you about social things. And because you are a person, who lives and goes to school with other people, social things will never go away. You can’t make Social go away. If you don’t like seeing the papers, there’s a way to solve that problem: I will not show you the papers if you are already doing what the papers remind us to do.”
“The way you’ve been trying to solve that problem is to rip up the papers. And I need you to understand that that isn’t gonna work.”
I brought out my file folder labeled “Listening Scaffolds”, dumped them all out in their duplicate glory. Noticed as I did that half of them were laminated, vowed only to use those plastic ones next time.
“And it’s not just about the paper slips.” Honestly, I’m with Eduardo that Whole Body Listening Larry is a bit insufferable and his eyes are too big. Nevertheless, I am grateful that both my teaching toolkit and the universe as a whole is not lacking on didactic materials for social skills, and neither Eduardo nor budget cuts can make much of a dent.
“These are good books. I like these books, for teaching Social. But even if you ripped all of these books into pieces, every book with people in it is a book about Social. Every. Single. Book in the world.”
“We can’t get rid of Social. We just need to understand it. And that’s why I’m your teacher, and that’s what we’ll do.”