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.