Being a preschool teacher with a roomful of 16 youngsters on a daily basis, I have directly experienced children defying the presumptions of myself and many a scholar. I have been privy to child behavior that many think improbable, if not impossible. I have seen and heard "developmental stages" being blown to smithereens. Of course, I have also heard lots of poop jokes, so my ego stays well checked. The past ninety-something-days has all gathered itself in my head and tossed a salad on my once strongly held beliefs about children and a teacher’s role in their lives.
I also realized I bring to the relationship what I have carried with me for many years: all the good, bad, ugly and delightful. But it was all laced with a misguided spice born from reading too many books about too many things I knew too little about: Children. So, I have had to put in my time....not reading, not workshopping, not networking. Instead, I have been really nosy in the company of children, day after day, diaper after diaper. I listen in on private conversations. I embed myself in their lives. And what I have seen and heard shapes what I now hold dear.
Children are more capable than adults give them credit for, physically, emotionally, mentally. They are nothing if not resilient. They can overcome and even thrive in the midst of my educational stumbling and bumbling. The fact is, what I believe and thus practice has and will continue to change over time. Yet, there is one demand I have tried to make on myself without the use of excuses... A mindful mantra if you will: BE PRESENT.
These words are a reminder of what is the most important to-do thing I do. Whether a preschooler has a story to relate in seemingly unrelated terms or has a knee that creaks and requires a lap for one minute short of eternity, I must be there for them. Ears hearing. Face expressing. Body comforting. These are the moments so necessary to a youngster reaching for brilliance in emotional grad school. Nothing I do will cost these youngsters more than my half-attentiveness, a crime worse than absence.
With my presence, might it be merely a few seconds or a seemingly hour-long-minute, whatever form it takes, my preschoolers will find reason to continue present-ing throughout their lives, and certainly, some sweetness will follow.