Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday SOL When are we present?

It is Tuesday and this is a "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


I've introduced several mindfulness practices into my preschool curriculum this year, drawing heavily from a couple of books suggested by my friend Amy:

The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland
A Handful of Quiet by Thich Nhat Hanh
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community

One activity that fascinates me is "Following the Leader," where you - the adult - follow the child's lead, playing along with whatever interests him/her...following, not controlling, not organizing, not deciding...

therefore you are... 

...staring out the window,
...turning over a leaf in your hand,
...stopping frequently on a walk, just to look at the ants,
...humming to yourself,
...coloring haphazardly on paper, over and over, the same color, the same stroke.

When do adults ever do this with children? 
What would it feel like? 

It seems all too rare.

A happy memory...
several months ago,
my husband and I,
visiting a preschooler,
our grand niece,
taking her out for an early morning muffin in downtown Chicago,
so that newborn baby sister and parents could rest,
so that the house would be quiet...

She was dressed as a princess.

We walked a few steps together and 
she unexpectedly called out, 
as if we had rehearsed it,
my husband and I froze mid-step.
Her delight was extraordinary.

Over and over, we did this,
she and us,
walking together,
she calling out "Freeze,"
the two of us stopping,
followed by her heartfelt laughter,
then, marching on,
us joining her,
until the next command of "Freeze."

For a brief morning,
we were at her beck and command,
following her lead,
delighting in what delighted her,
and it was 
an amazing gift.

An incredibly special time.

This is a gift that seems beyond my grasp in the classroom,
with so many competing needs, desires, and demands,
too many children to follow,
curriculum plans to pursue,
data to acquire,
administrative concerns to consider,
professional development,
the daily schedule,
busy, full days of time management.

This is a gift that seems beyond parents,
with so many competing needs, desires, and demands,
readying children for daily routines,
get up, get dressed, prepare, gather, hurry, make food, clean, put away, settle down,
work responsibilities and burdens to shoulder,
household necessities and concerns, things to buy, fix, organize,
busy, full days of time management.

What of the child who must adhere to these incessant demands, schedules, expectations?

What future are we preparing the child for,
if this is all he/she ever experiences?

How can we change our lives so that following the child's lead becomes less rare?

How might we indulge in this gift more regularly,
this gift that delights 
both adult and child?

Mindfulness...allowing ourselves to be present.


  1. Maureen, there was a book out long ago called Son-Rise that I'll never forget, about an autistic boy and they made huge strides in helping him to make connections by (don't remember the term) shadowing him, for hours. They did it, they hired sitters to do it, etc. Although the children you speak of are not challenged in that way, I think they must feel so empowered by your 'following' their lead. I loved hearing about you and your grand-niece and seeing the pictures! Thank you for the links too. There is one teacher in our primary school who does quite a lot with mindfulness in her classroom!

  2. I loved the way your described your great-niece, She was dressed as a princess . . . and then her royal edict -
    as if we had rehearsed it,
    my husband and I froze mid-step."
    How lucky she was to have that time with you and your husband who spent the morning following her lead and delighting in what delighted her.
    I want this gift of mindfulness more often in my classroom. What a challenge you've left us with.

  3. I'm so grateful to have stumbled on your slice! Last summer I read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh--not kid-related--that really did affect how I parented. I'm better at being mindful and present with my trio, less so with adults... But I love the reminder. And the book recommendations! Thank you!

  4. Maureen, I have been thinking about this a lot since reading it on Wednesday. Your posts always make me think, but this one really challenges me to reflect on my own behavior and choices. What a powerful thing it would be to follow the lead of my children more often. Thank you for this.

  5. Oh, from the mom of that princess-freezing toddler, tears are welling up. As a parent its also hard to treasure these precious moments. Life moves so fast. Thank you for remining me to stop and smell the roses. Aunt Reenie, Elise just loves you to pieces!

  6. A beautiful example of how you were mindful in those rich experiences with your grand niece. No phone. No wandering thoughts of what you need to do later. No noisy voices that love to jump inside our heads to judge, second guess, criticize, worry or lament....
    This is what it's all about...Awesome!