Teaching teachers, Communication

I was really anxious about tonight’s class, and I know why, now, more than I did before it started.

I had four hours.

That’s a long time to be in a class, for sure. It’s especially a long time if, like just about all of my students, you worked a full day already with children. And then either managed their own household’s (with one, two, three kids of their own) plans for dinner and bedtime– or drove an hour to get to class — or brought their newborn with them– people in class did all of those things. Others brought dinner because they came straight from work. Others tried not to worry about the homework they have for their OTHER classes after they get home. They did all those things. THEIR job is actually the harder one.

My job? Teach the most important pieces of what I know about Communication Development in Preschool in 4 hours.

I mean, seriously? Communication. What do we do with children that ISN’T about communication?

I know this is my bias– I’m a dang communicator– I want to listen and dangy do I want to talk talk talk.

But I want to talk about language acquisition. (Do you KNOW that babies can distinguish between their mother’s native language and a second language she speaks, at BIRTH? And they babble every sound humans make until 6-8 months, after which they ONLY babble sounds they hear in their environments? And that deaf babies babble just like that too?)

And I want to talk about functional writing in the preschool environment and why it is TOTALLY different to write your name because you’re “signing in” than for “practice” at 10:00 Lesson Time.

And I want to talk about why books that make your heart sing are WAY more important to share with children than books that isolate one particular concept in phonemioc awareness. Kinda. Except when A child needs EXACTLY that one particular book. But mostly, read books that make you CARE and make you eager to TALK about that book after.

And I want to talk about authenticity, about talking with children like people. Which DOESN’T mean you aren’t the teacher, but it DOES mean that you are responsible, not that you are all-powerful. And I want to talk about “listening” not being the same thing as “obeying” and that mixing up our language in regard to those two behaviors is creating all kinds of mess.

And I want to talk about the heart. I asked tonight about a phrase I use often with children– listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. “What does that mean,” I asked, “to listen with your heart?”

One teacher (this was her only comment all night) said, “to let them in.”

YES, yes, yes. To Let Them In.

Let them IN. I was thrilled by the simplicity of the answer.

To listen with your heart is not to assume you know the outcome– it’s not surrender, or blind obedience. It’s willingness to seek to understand. It’s agreeing to understand first, then decide. It’s striving to listen with an open mind and a loving heart.

Four hours or four years. The class had a pretty continual and lively give and take all evening, and did at least touch most of the topics above.

But, if a student or two remembers and wrestles with “eyes ears and heart”  for a while I will be really thankful to have pushed through the anxiety tonight and tried to communicate.

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7 thoughts on “Teaching teachers, Communication

  1. Only 1 teacher jcommented during a class on communication? What does that say about how they see teaching and learning?

  2. My students were older than your teachers’ are. It’s still important to be present without being judgmental. To raise passions and let them have room to pursue them. To teach respect by demonstrating it. To encourage discipline and orderly thinking without being repressive. Some days were successful, while others were not. Wish I’d known to think about these things before starting teaching.

  3. Hi Grace… came here through a comment on Mamalode and I feel like I have just completely stalked you (hopefully in a good way?) for the last two hours reading through your blog – which I LOVE. It always makes me so happy to find someone who seems to travel a similar path, thinks similar things and appreciates this gorgeous town we call home. I too, hate “Mommy,” and you’ve defined that feeling way better that I have! I also felt like I probably shouldn’t make a comment on every single post where I was thinking, YES! and THIS! and … oh wow, I totally agree. Anyway – I’m sorry for the wildly out of context and over the top comment. 🙂 I feel like I should know you or have met you somewhere – you might know my mama, Teri, she plays electric bass.

    And to the post above… wow, some of those facts are fascinating. 🙂 I struggle with acquiring the books that make your heart sing versus the books that perform a function. I tend to really dislike those type (Inside, Outside, Upside Down!) versus the ones that tell a really lovely thoughtful story (The Quilt Story), but my little man seems to love so many of them equally right now, and I want him to be free to choose what he wants to read… thank you for your thoughts on communication and guidance. You may have meant it for teachers, but it’s equally important as a parent, I think, to “let them in” and accept and guide where they want to go.

    • My goodness, your comment has just MADE my day! How fun. I DO know your mom, though not super-well, we’ve shared a stage a couple times! And your aunt (Deni) was one of our midwives when Alden was born.
      Glad to meet you, here, and to hear your thoughts — The Quiltmaker’s Gift- is that the book you mean? I LOVE that book. Oooh- you’ve given me an idea about putting together a book list of GEMS– the ones that I love and that children without fail seem to really love, too. 🙂

      • It’s this book, actually: http://www.amazon.com/Turtleback-School-Library-Binding-Edition/dp/0808537113

        I loved it as a little girl and was thrilled to find it second hand when Munchkin was born. 🙂 Please do share your book gems! I started putting together a pinterest board of books I loved as a kid that are nearly unheard of now, but I’m always looking for ideas as he gets older… everyone seems to gravitate toward the “new” books… (Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief, for example) instead of some of the old ones that I remember and love… A Dog for Davie’s Hill (out of print), The Walking Stones, Doctor Dolittle… not to say there isn’t value in new books, just that the old ones seem to be forgotten.

        Deni actually delivered me, too, and she and Jeanne were both there when I delivered Munchkin.

      • We read Dr Doolittle on a roadtrip last year! Alden loved it. I am DEFINITELY going to start a booklist. I have a major soft spot for picture books of the late 60’s-mid-70’s.

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