Friday, December 10, 2010

Moments that linger

I've been blogging for almost a year now, enjoying it very much. As you can probably tell, I try to make at least one blog entry a week. Some weeks I do better than that, some weeks (like this past one) it doesn't even happen. But, as I suspect is true for most of us who work with children, each day is filled with moments that are meaningful and important...regardless of whether they are put into print.

The past many days have been very full indeed and I have been searching for which moment to spotlight here in this blog. And then it dawned on me - why not share several? This is the reality of being with young children - it is a whirlwind of small but powerful moments.

Consider these moments that linger...

- Sitting at a table with several 3 year olds, working on shape puzzles, when several friends wander off to new classroom pursuits and I find myself alone with one young boy who is focused on solving these. He completes another model and then notices that all the shapes on the table are available for him to use. He gathers them into one big pile, much like King Midas, and begins spontaneously to search for each and every circle piece - creating a long line of circle pieces across the table. I, to test him, offer him a diamond piece, and he shakes his head in seriousness and says, "No, just circles," but then he reconsiders, "Hey, let me see that!" And next to his line of circles, he begins to create a new pattern, using nothing but diamond pieces. "Help me," he says, "We must find all these diamonds!" This is why I work with children - I love watching them think, I love being present as the world opens up to them. (Oh, but where is my camera!?)

- Starting my day with a group of 4 year olds, when a little girl comes up to the teacher and laughs, "I whip my hair back and forth!" The teacher laughs in delight and says to her, "Good morning to you, too! Ask Ms. Ingram if she knows this song, you must share it with her." The little girl sings it to me, all the while shaking her hair. She adds, "There is a video!" and I tell her, "This song is new to me. I will look it up on my computer when I get home and I will think of you." That evening, I find this song video by Willow Smith, and I think not only of the 4 year old but of her incredible teacher, embracing this child's connection to home, seeing her sharing as a positive greeting, not dismissing it or ignoring it. I marvel at teachers who embrace children's interests, knowing that these are the foundation for the very best learning.

- In the block corner, I am relaxed and stretched out on the floor, alongside several children working on their masterpieces. A child that I have never met before sees me and an open invitation: quite unexpectedly, he throws himself on top of me, laughing at his surprise attack. "Well! hello!," I say and I give him a quick hug. Children don't hold back, do they? I love how real and "in the moment" children are.

- Two four year old boys, two different classrooms. Both so similarly sad, both with thumb in mouth, tearful; both dragging behind their classmates as they walk down the hall, or as they gather at the carpet. Everything is hard for them today, they don't want to participate, they can't seem to follow the routine. And the two teachers, unknown to one another, miles apart in their schools, both said to me, I am wondering what is up with him; I need to talk to his family about whether this sadness is true at home, too; have they seen this? I wonder if school is feeling too hard right now? And why? I wonder if he needs more tasks to do independently, away from the crowd of classmates? Both of these teachers are so similarly aware of their little ones' behaviors, carefully observing and considering, seeing themselves as the problem-solvers, the child interpreters, that they are. I am filled with hope about our educators.

- It's the end of the day, and a teacher reports to a grandmother that her 4 year old granddaughter had a rather rough day, having many tears. (The teacher had earlier told me that this child's parents are newly separated, getting a divorce.) The grandmother stoops down to the child's level and says, oh so severely, "Don't you EVER let me hear of you crying in school! You have GOT NOTHING to cry about young lady! If you need something to cry about, I have it for you. But you are too big for crying. And don't let me hear about you having to be held by the teacher - you are too big for that. You hear me?" I am stung by her cruel response. I think about the enormous work of teachers - working with young children and their families - the tense, concentrated work one must do, negotiating a minefield of varying beliefs and approaches about children, learning how and when to assert yourself, always advocating for the children.

- It is evening. I am working with new teachers, sharing my engineering curriculum. Using recyclables, they are building houses for the three little pigs, hoping to make one that is strong enough to prevent the wolf from knocking it over. (The wolf is my blow dryer!) I see one of the teachers blow on her house, to test it herself, before calling me over. I laugh with delight - yes, we need teachers like this teaching our young children - able to become thoroughly engaged with the work, to be playful and curious.

- A message from NAEYC in my email inbox, reminding me about the ongoing on-line event for the new release of the Anti-Bias Education by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards. I am moved by their opening quote, "Early childhood teachers want each child in their care to feel powerful and competent. They strive to welcome every child and to show respect to each family as best they know how. However, beyond individual teachers’ hopes, beliefs, and actions is a society that has built advantage and disadvantage into our many institutions and systems. Inequity of resources in society, and the biases we use to justify that inequity, have an enormous impact on children’s lives." The on-line discussion is full of concerned questions and thoughtful responses; I am in awe of the numerous, dedicated educators who are striving to eliminate prejudice and inequity in their classrooms, in our world.

These are the moments that linger for me this week...some sad, many beautiful, all very rich experiences. I am so thrilled to work with both children and their teachers.

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