As an educator, we experience one of the greatest opportunities in life. We have the opportunity to be in the lives of children and influence their daily lives. We can represent a light in their life or a hindrance to their growth. It is a choice available to us everyday. Many days in the classroom it is glorious being an educator and we say and practice all of the right things. Other days, we let the influence of outside factors steal our joy and positive energy that we could be sharing with the children. Our joyful energy is replaced with a tired, lesser version of our best self. As educators we desire to practice what is best for children, utilizing our lives for the pursuit of the greater good.
When we have lost our way how do we bring back our place of joy?
Here are a few ideas I remind myself of during the challenging moments in my practice.
Idea 1: Children are still learning their way through life. What they require in an educator is an advocate. The children recognize where they want to go. They are open to taking risks. In our school the children who fight against the status quo are labeled "high flyers". In adult speak, that means the children’s desire for taking risks does not fit into the conformity of school culture. As educators, if we influence children to conform they become more apprehensive to risk taking. The ability to take risks is a gift we can offer children of any age --- the freedom to be themselves. When we embrace co-learning with children, we join in the adventure of wonder and discovery each unique child provides to the community.
Idea 2: What children want from an educator is to be open and ready to listen. In our adult lives, our minds fill with thoughts and distractions that pull us into future issue problem solving. Children on the other hand are fantastic at living in the moment. We must remember to slow down and be fully present when they come to us with ideas or questions. Slowing down helps our adult brain understand what children are communicating. The more we commit to living in the moment and focusing on the now the better we will understand children. Being able to follow alongside children as listeners and partner, in the joy of learning, benefits the whole learning community. Our authentic listening is how we show children we respect them as learners.
Idea 3: As an educator be open to the possibilities of children's thinking. As we get older and more influenced by outside factors in our lives, we lose the flexibility to trust different ideas from other adults and more importantly children. We can become fixed in our ways in life and in the classroom. Fixed mindsets do not fit well with honoring the spirit of the child. A spirit that is open and eager to explore and try different things. A spirit that finds difficulty in accepting no, not possible, not enough and no time as an answer to their curious mind. Limitations make no sense to a child's joyful open mind that lives eager to soak in all the world has to offer.
Idea 4: Be careful of the challenges and pressures outside forces like parents and school administration place on us, as educators, that may influence the way we execute our practice. We need to stay focused and positive about our mission as each of us defines it in our classroom community. Moving forward on our mission represents the key to keeping our joy and being a light in children's lives. Once educators let others in our community decide what our mission is we have given away the best version of our self. The person who personifies a partner in children's growth.
Idea 5: One of the most important aspects of a joyful classroom is the work we do in building community between and among children and educators. Typically there are many different children with unique ways of thinking in each classroom. For individual children, being different sometimes is viewed as a negative. Often negative associations between peers come from challenges children encounter while learning to socialize. If we remember socializing represents part of learning just like any other skill, then the challenges with individual children can be encountered in a different light. Socializing is part of the growth of the community. It is not about one child causing a problem. Social challenges are a result of the community not providing the resources for the child to be successful. As a childcare community, we can accept all differences and enlist the community as a resource in loving all members as they grow and learn. Belonging is one of the greatest gifts we can give children.
When we align our words, thoughts and actions we will grow our best self and the light of our joy we be enhanced. Our light will illuminate the children around us and feed the light in them and nurture their essential humanness. Everyday is an opportunity to share this gift. Have a great day and shine your light.