Mother's Day always means childrens' programs at church, and today was no different. The school-age children put on a production called "American Ideal," a nicely-done reminder that it's not all about "me," done-up American-Idol style with judges and people in the crowd holding signs, etc. Good stuff.
As the usual lead-in, however, was the preschoolers' program.
Okay, I'm accustomed to wiggly, inattentive preschoolers putting on cute little songs. That's a normal thing. So I wasn't enormously concerned at first when two little boys stage-right began intentionally stepping on one anothers' feet. I did wonder, however, why the teacher directly behind them allowed it to continue without separating them. If one of them had been mine, he'd have already been yanked off the stage, but that's just because I'm particularly strict with mine and I didn't allow that kind of leeway.
To my amazement, the tussling escalated (all of it was greeted with amused snickering from the audience). One boy was the instigator, while the other was glad to follow along merrily. Instigator grabbed Follower's arm and did a Three-Stooges "why are you punching yourself" sort of maneuver on him for a while. Then Follower did a two-finger poke-in-the-eye on Instigator. Instigator countered with a nasty rib-skin pinch through his shirt, which was met with instant pinch retaliation.
All of this while the teacher right behind them, who could not have missed their activities, ignored them completely. HELLO!!! There were a number of very well-behaved and well-prepared youngsters whose exemplary performances were completely missed due to the overwhelmingly distracting antics of these two little vermin. I'm quite sure no-one remembers the names of any of the songs the kids sang.
The two boys had finally just begun, as my students call it, all-out "whaling" on each other when another teacher from the end of the row came over and neatly picked up Instigator by the armpits and placed him at the end of the row. Instigator obviously isn't interested in obedience, however, because he promptly ran right back to his place. Instead of putting him off-stage right then, they LEFT HIM THERE and the two boys commenced "whaling" throughout the program until the end.
These were three- and four-year-old children.
I've done a LOT of work with groups of this age, and I can only tell you that I'm glad I don't have any more kids in preschool -- because if this kind of behavior is tolerated, I don't want my own kids in there. We can have disciplinary expectations without creating a prison environment; in fact, in the presence of structure, the kids often relax and allow their true creativity and intelligence emerge. When they're in constant fear of ill-behaved monster children, they're on guard and you never get good education.
I hate to rail on nice people, because I know all those ladies are kind and sweet and well-intentioned... but I also think they might need a little volunteer training sessions on disciplinary expectations and managing monster children.