At this time of the year, we usually reflect on the past year and what we have accomplished. This feeling usually precedes the beginning of the year when resolutions are made. I’ve also noticed lately how winter scenes very often depict some type of reflection. Coincidence? I’m not sure, but it has put me in a reflective mood.
Reflection to me, however, is the mirror image that is produced by our accomplishments with young children. Will the child reflect the teaching that has taken place or will his learning be a distorted version of actuality? This thought crosses my mind often. I watched one of my granddaughters recently express thanks for receiving a cookie at a restaurant. I also observed another child grab and run when offered a cookie. While I know that children’s actions are not always a reflection of their upbringing and instruction, I do think that there is a high probability that it does often reflect their learning.
In light of this reflecting season, I will offer a few suggestions that I think are important for all teachers and parents who are surrounded by young children.
- Manners and politeness are NOT out of fashion or useless. Being polite is always appropriate, but a lack of manners is almost always inappropriate. The comment that they are “just kids,” is ridiculous. It is developmentally appropriate to teach our young children to be courteous.
- It is our responsibility to teach children how to take turns and wait their turn. In my 25 years of teaching, I had many children who had not been taught patience. They learned it in my class because that was the expectation. (Try allowing the inpatient child to wear a hat that says, “I’m Next” when she is the next child to get a turn. You will be amazed how that calms the savage beast.)
- Classrooms should be places of joy. I’ve been in a lot of joyless classroom lately. I want to ask teachers in those rooms if they would like to be a student in that environment every day. For some children, learning is a task. Most of us know how difficult it is to perform in a hostile environment. I certainly wouldn’t want my life to reflect some of the classrooms I have been in during my years.
- Remember, you are an example to young children. Would we act differently if we thought that the children in our lives would behave exactly the same way and have the same attitude?
Take some time to reflect during this last month of the year. Look in the mirror and see if you are making a good reflection. Not necessarily in our physical appearance, but in our actions and behavior. Be joyful and make the world around you a more joyful place as well.