Today’s writer is sure to put a smile on your face and gently remind you that the way we interact with children DOES matter. Ashlee is an old friend from Auburn, Washington, whom I’ve been privileged to see grow up over the course of the last nine years. And friends, I LOVE all she has to say today. Enjoy!
In high school I took a class where I went to a third grade class and hung out with kids twice a week. Since then I’ve been working with kids in some capacity ever since. The funny thing about kids is they say whatever is on their minds. On a normal day I get asked and told things like, “Why are your toes are brown?” and “Do you have mommy milk in your breasts?” “Ashlee, I didn’t fall down today” or “You are too old to get married but you’re not old enough to die”.
Most of my days are spent giggling about the things that my kids say. My favorite thing about these little hearts I get to teach are they aren’t yet afraid of what people think. They live life with such a beautiful freedom. I’ve always loved the saying “If a child calls you fat, then you’re fat”. Good or bad kids will tell you the truth. As a preschool teacher it’s hard to decide if what’s being said to me in that moment is important or not.
But one day Jerry* came barreling towards me tears rolling down his cheek. He had been yelling at a friend, for the millionth time. I could feel my patience running thin. It wasn’t the first time that I had to talk to him about the importance of talking to others kindly. For some reason though, this time I decided to ask him why he was yelling at everyone, including me. This sweet, snuggly little guy looked at me and said, “Everyone yells at me, my mom, dad, and other teachers”. My heart sunk and tears welled up in my eyes. Seriously, how does one even respond to that? I still don’t really know. What I did do was sit on the floor with him. I met him in that moment. I asked him gently if he felt like I ever yelled at him. To my relief he said no.
Although I know I am no perfect person, this little heart changed the way I interact with children. I take more time to listen and understand; even when the stories never seem to end, or don’t actually make sense. That day I decided that I would always make sure to meet these little hearts where they are. It’s easy as an adult to get caught up in the chaos of the day and forget to really listen. But to take the time and let the children we interact with every day that they are worth listening to. I am a better teacher because I opened my heart and ears to a little chubby faced boy on a glooming fall day.
Ashlee resides in Seattle. She is a preschool teacher to the world’s cutest four and five year olds. She fancies herself an adventurer and recently a world traveler. She’s currently working on getting her BS in early childhood education. So what can you say to encourage her today? I know this reminds me to be present with my son and truly listen to all that’s going on in his little heart. What about you?
*Names have been changed.