Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"What do you need?"

Since I first stepped into Tumbleweed about a month ago, I've been constantly fascinated by all of the exploration, intention, and especially the tenderness I see going on around me. The kids surprise me every day with their deep curiosity and inquisitiveness, with their sense of imagination and play that so surpasses my own, and with their frequent and unexpected gentleness and care for their friends. It always strikes me how inevitably, if a friend is having a difficult time with a transition or feeling sad or lonely or frustrated, other children notice. Their brows furrow and they express concern and worry for their friend:

"Are they alright?"

"What's wrong?"

"What do they need?"

These questions, which I hear daily from the children, beautifully demonstrate a deep sense of empathy that we might not tend to expect from preschoolers, and that we often forget to express as adults. Even when a child is fully engaged in his game of pirates or dinosaurs or princesses, if a friend is hurt or sad, suddenly the game comes to a halt and all attention goes to checking on that friend.

Upon some reflection, I've also noticed that when children ask concerned questions and want to check in with a struggling friend, my impulse as a teacher sometimes is to try to keep struggles private and separate from another. As adults, we often impulsively tell children to worry about themselves, not to pry into other kids' business. I think we also try to minimize struggles by moving past them quickly, instead of creating the opportunity for growth and learning from the experience. However, what I see here at Tumbleweed among the children and encouraged by teachers is a beautiful openness about and acceptance of feelings and struggle. One child's sadness about saying goodbye to her mom at the beginning of the day can be a wonderful way for her to connect with other friends who have had similar experiences. Frustration over a lost toy or anger at an unfair game provides opportunities to discuss such issues as they relate to everyone, and these conversations can be building blocks for learning and growing from past experiences.

In our very individualistic culture, we tend not to share our struggles with others or to reach out for help. We often forget to ask others for what we need, and may even forget to ask ourselves the same question. In these past several weeks, the kids have helped to remind me of how natural and important struggle is for us as humans, and how it can be point of connection with ourselves and with others; an opportunity to ask, "What do you need?"

Sometimes it can help to have a friend there to offer encouragement while working on a task, like putting on shoes!

J and H negotiate the sharing of paints, making plans when one voices their need by saying "no."

It can feel good to give others what they need - like encouragement on their drawing or silly ideas when they get stuck!

Sometimes we all just need a little laughter!

“I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” -Jean Vanier

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