Posted in 2017, Classroom, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL17 Day 10: The Things We Don’t Want to Do

Claiming that getting my 3-year-old daughter to take her medicine is difficult would be a major understatement. Since she’s been home sick for the past two days, we have had to give her both flu medication every twelve hours and pain and fever relievers to bring down her temperature. In the course of administering all of this, we have learned some interesting new tricks for getting her to take it.

And she has learned even more new tricks for avoiding it.

This morning as I approached her with a syringe of medicine, she immediately went into fight mode: curled up in a ball, hands clamped tightly over her mouth, head turned as far away from me as possible.

I launched my usual counterattack: bribery. Promises of marshmallows and popsicles and watching the Trolls movie and whatever else I could think of to convince her to open her mouth. No success.

I picked her up and sat down at the kitchen table with her squirming in my arms and tried to find just the right angle to squirt the medicine into her mouth. At the very last second, just as I thought I had it, she lunged forward and grabbed a pretzel out of an open pouch on the table, quickly shoving one in her mouth. “Sorry, Mommy,” she said sweetly. “I can’t take any medicine. I already have something in my mouth!”

Sighing, I sat and watched her chew. Slowly. Deliberately. Like someone who knew they were winning the battle.

As she swallowed the last bite of pretzel, I acted fast and got the syringe into position again. Now she tried negotiation. “But Mommy, I feel good! My heart,” she tapped her chest, “feels great! I don’t need any medicine!”

I still don’t know what exactly happened next, but I moved fast and caught her by surprise and–just like that!–the medicine was gone. She took a drink, accepted a treat, and acted like the whole ordeal was nothing at all.

This made me think, though, about how hard we fight against things we really don’t want to do. How relentless we can be in avoiding tasks that we consider undesirable.

Yesterday, my friend Colin wrote a Slice of Life post called “Are We Too Academic?” He reflected upon the joy that sometimes seems to be missing in our classrooms and the things we have to let go of to make learning seem so “academic.” He addressed how we often plan lessons based on the things we think we have to do, not the things we value.

What does this have to do with my daughter refusing to take her medicine? A realization of just how many things we ask our students to do that they don’t want to do in a day. While they might not hide or fight or try to negotiate, they still react. They fail to complete their work. Some disengage. Many simply become compliant, doing what they’re asked to do because that’s the way the system works.(For a great discussion of engagement vs. compliance, check out this article on the work of Daniel Pink.)

As I reflect upon this tonight, I just keep asking How can we make things different? I don’t believe that every activity all day long is going to appeal to every child–and it shouldn’t. It is an important life skill for kids to learn to do things that sometimes they would not otherwise prioritize. Responsibility isn’t always fun.

But I do believe that we can shift our thinking a bit. I think we need to make sure we look at our lessons through multiple lenses, the most important one being how the students will perceive what we are doing. Are we making it meaningful? Are we allowing them to do the work, especially the creative thinking? Are we setting them up for circumstances that can be engaging and joyful?

Or are we simply spending too much time trying to give them another dose of medicine?

I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday and daily during the month of March in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.



Teacher, mentor, reader, writer, mother, wife Lover of good books, chocolate chip cookies, and sunny days

17 thoughts on “#SOL17 Day 10: The Things We Don’t Want to Do

  1. Oh, this reminds me so much of my own children. Our nemesis with #1 was allergy shots, and I had to learn how to give them. With #2, it was the inhaler. Sadly, those were regular parts of life, and the drama intensified with other medication.

    I, too, am an excellent example of dragging my feet, going kicking and screaming into some things. Passive resistance and manipulation are effective tools in those times.

    Very reflective post, and quite thought – provoking too.


  2. I remember those battles and can laugh now. In the moment, though, it definitely pushes our “mommy” buttons. Love how you connected your experience to what we ask our students to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This slice ended up somewhere I was not expecting when I started reading. We are three days from taking PARCC and we have been practicing and practicing and practicing! I’ve been thinking about how much we “make” kids do too! And how little fun we are having right now! It makes me sad!


  4. I think most mothers can relate to your struggle to give medicine to your chid. Rarely do the kids take it happily. There may be exceptions. Your daughter shows creativity in coming up with her excuses. I like how this led you to think about school.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ugh! It is always hard to make sure our beliefs and practices align. Sometimes we feel like we have no choice ourselves. Your thoughts are similar to those I have discussed with friends recently in this regard. We have to make sure we know ourselves and our learners.


  6. Excellent reflection piece about forcing, compliance, learner agency and above all else the FUN of learning! We have to make it happen. I am not sure about medication-taking strategies, however! Persevere!! What a real (and fun to read, if not to experience) slice of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think weaving in the important stuff (ie, mandated curriculum) with the fun stuff (engaging projects) is the only way we can expect anything to be retained by the brains of our students. I hate to think of it as the needle (Hope your daughter is on the mend) as metaphor but the reality is, there are things we need to teach and things they need to learn, but having flexibility to make that happen in meaningful ways is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. On my mind daily! What a reflection! I’ve done a lot of reading lately on student centered learning- which speaks to the different lenses you write about. Tough questions. No easy answer but as long as we are aware, we will keep working towards more joyful learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love where this post stated and how it ended! I think I personally get caught up in it all and need to step back and reflect even more then I already do! This was so insightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this reflective piece and how you take a personal story and apply it to something we can all relate to. I remember a few years ago, when schools were cutting out recess to study more and do well on tests. It horrified me. When I went to kindergarten, it was more about play and less about learning to read. I think we are doing kids a disservice by taking away the time their brains need to rest and incorporate new learning. There are things we have to teach (the medicine) but wrap let’s it in a place of joy (the marshmallow).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this, Sarah!! So true. I know I almost feel like I’m giving that medicine when I have to give standardized tests or teach boring things. I love the times when we can add choice – Genius Hour, Novel Engineering, etc.

    Hope your babies feel better soon! We’ve missed you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful post, Sarah. I love how you narrated the piece about your daughter; she sounds like quite a character – very dramatic. It looks like you’ll have a muse for life! Great points about the loss many teachers are feeling in this results-driven environment. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the book, The Teacher You Want to Be. If not, it’s a compilation of essays written by literacy leaders on their study tour of the Reggio Emilia schools in Italy. Their essays are based on thirteen beliefs they developed as a “wish list” on education. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you reminded me of The Teacher You Want to Be! I joined the Heinemann book study last summer and loved the essays I read but never finished it because, well, kids. I definitely need to pick it up again and take a closer read before I step back into the classroom this fall! (And yes, my daughter is absolutely a character!)


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