To study something with or someone closely is really an act of admiration. To admire means to regard with wonder and surprise.
How blessed we are to spend our days in the company of children.
They are amazing. They are joyful. They are energetic. They are curious. They are creative. They are spontaneous. They are wonderful. They are wise.
Yet, I worry sometimes, that in the day-to-day realities of life in school, our child-loving lenses get smudged and smeared in ways that can narrow and cloud our ability to really see our students for the amazing beings that they are.
Maybe it’s that we don’t always feel prepared to deal with the many needs that present themselves. In our weary attempts to communicate the challenges we face we sort and label children in harmful ways.
The behavior kids. The explosive ones. The hyper kids. The demanding ones. The strugglers. The smart ones. The irresponsible. The instigators. The direction-followers.
The children not as well equipped to “play school” are more susceptible to being cast as villains in our classroom narratives while quieter more compliant children are quickly assigned the roles of rule-following protagonists.
So what can we do to prevent these smeared lenses from affecting our own joy and effectiveness in the classroom? Today I propose three ways we might actively focus on choosing what Gravity Goldberg refers to as an admiring lens.
Notice the joy all around us. I know this work can be exhausting and overwhelming at times. But it can also be joyful, celebratory, and uplifting if we let it. What if we all start actively looking for and naming the abundant joy that surrounds us every day? What if we gently but persistently train our brains to look for evidence of the good around us rather than evidence of the strife. The joy of childhood is around us in great abundance. We may just need to polish our lenses every now and then to notice more of it.
Share stories that honor children. School culture is largely determined by the stories its members choose to tell. In some schools culture is driven by competitive sharing of classroom “war stories”. Trials and tribulations are recounted over and over and worn like a badge of honor. In these schools, the constant search for proof of “how bad things are” not only becomes a drain on the energy of adults but is reflected directly back into the classroom and onto the children. Yet, in other schools celebration is nearly constant. Teachers in these schools share stories of growth, resilience, and even the smallest learning victories. They cast students as heroes and stars of the school. The stories we tell about our children really do matter. The children in every school are brave. They are curious. They are hilarious. They are resilient. They are hard-working. They are deserving of narratives that honor the best of each of them. The choice is ours.
Let love in. The word love doesn’t get used much in educational circles. Yet every child needs a teacher who sees her for who she is. Every child needs a teacher who cherishes him as a worthy and beautiful human being. There are lots of things you could call that kind of regard for children. But it sounds like love to me. And it seems that the more unloveable kids appear on the outside, the more desperate it is that we get beyond the rough exterior to form a true connection. So let’s start helping each other find more good in every child. Let’s challenge ourselves to love our kids even when we don’t like them that much. Let’s stop describing students with long lists of shortcomings and needs. Instead let’s push ourselves to discover every child’s strengths, assets, and passions. These are the stepping-stones to reaching the hardest to reach.
Nobody will disagree. Every educator faces challenges, struggles, and heartaches.
But there is also so much joy in the children all around us. There are so many amazing stories of children that need to be told. And every child’s life is made more wonderful when an adult decides to see them through the lens of unconditional love.
This week, let’s polish our smeared and smudgy lenses trading them in for admiring lenses each morning. Let’s be more aware of the wonder of children in our midst. Let’s me more mindful of children’s gifts. Let’s be more generous with forgiveness. Let’s be more open to laughter. Let’s be more careful about the ways we describe our children. And let’s commit to finding as much good as we are humanly able.
The wonder of childhood surrounds us. Maybe we just need to dare ourselves to be truly amazed by it again.