Not long ago I was visiting with a director in her office when a teacher came in with a young child who had received a small wound on his head. They looked at him, the wound, and questioned him for a time about how this happened. The “wide-eyed” child had no response, but seemed to become increasingly anxious as they “worked him over.” Most likely they were genuinely concerned about the child, and the incident, but how this affected the child appeared secondary to “solving” the incident. The observer in me couldn’t help but think, “What’s really important here?”
Oftentimes we forget to acknowledge how the child may be feeling, and what could help him deal with a situation. Perhaps a reassuring hug, an acknowledgement about how it feels, even a mirror to show the child what the wound looks like (the mystery and intrigue can be worse than the reality.)
Admittedly, it’s easier to be the observer than the active participant. In the “hectic-ness” of classroom day-to-day routines and activities we can find ourselves just acting, or reacting to the event of the moment. We all do it sometimes. It’s simpler to “get it done” and move on. But when we are working with young children we can’t come to value efficiency over appropriate practice. Then it really becomes more about us than about them, and consciously or not, it is disrespectful to the child.
Changing that focus isn’t easy. It’s a challenge to make the conscious, intentional effort to filter what we see, what we hear and what we do through the lens of the child’s experience whether it’s dealing with an injury or planning an activity. Certainly, since we are all unique individuals, there is never any way we can really “be” that other person. But, we can always try to put the “human feel” into it. We all have our “inner 4-year-old” in there; we just need to stop long enough to listen to her.