Your eyes, a smile, and a nod
There is a vital moment in a child’s day which sets them up for success; their first meeting with the adults who hold them under their wing during the day. When they are greeted by the bus driver, there is a meeting of eyes, and a greeting, which conveys the message “I have you, it’s all good”. Then, when they arrive at school, each adult there has an opportunity to do the same. Get down at the child’s level, find their eyes, give a smile and a nod. “I’ve got you”. School buses have a door at the front, you meet the driver there. Do your staff meet the children at the door, welcome them, expect a warm human interaction to start the day?
Often, it’s what wasn’t done when there was an opportunity to do it which is the greatest tragedy in human affairs. The casual hello, the friendly greeting, which makes all the difference. We are all fighting the great battle, silently, and it’s the littlest of things which can make an enormous difference.
Attachment is the womb of learning
Borrowing from Gordon Neufeld and extending the concept, it’s clear to me that there can be no learning if the teacher doesn’t connect with the child. When she arrives in the building, has there been the warm greeting, the finding of eyes and extending of your heart into the other? Children don’t care what you know until they know that you care. We are all that child’s teacher; the custodian, EAs, volunteers, teachers and administrators.
You can’t will your garden to grow
Standing out in your garden screaming at the vegetables might make you feel better, and perhaps you’ll even think it makes a difference. But you can’t will them to grow any more than you can will the children to mature or grow up. What you can do is provide a safe and nurturing place for them to grow and flourish. Held by the adults, they have a foundation of safety and security from which they can develop healthy independence.
Connection before direction
And in my office, angry, frustrated children arrive in need of something which will trim their sails in the right direction. They are in no position to listen to me; their greatest need is for human interaction which re-establishes safety, comfort, and a sense of being held comfortably. I can’t start dealing with the issues until the tears have dried up, and I have their eyes and a smile which shows they’ve reattached. We meet as people, I have their heart, which is the gateway to their mind. Only then can I do the work of repairing the wrong and asking “can I count on you?”
It all begins with those 2 seconds of greeting, which set the stage for all which follows.