“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” – GOETHE
Throughout my lifetime, I have continually been inspired by the above quote. As an educator, I have always been grateful that Goethe’s quote spoke to me.
All adults, parents, teachers and caregivers have great obligations, responsibilities and opportunities to serve the children in their charge. I believe that, as adults, it is our responsibility to be inspiring to children, to model humanity at our best and to teach children how to learn to transform obstacles into opportunities.
What I have learned during my 30+ years as an educator is that children learn what we teach them, therefore it is critical that we are teaching children what we want them to learn. Children don’t only learn from our instruction… they absorb what we may be unconsciously modeling for them based on our actions. This means that adults must have the intention and attention to be as conscious as possible when interacting with children. We need to make sure our actions match our words so that children can respect us. Children deserve the adults in their lives to be honest and real with them. Some adults believe that children cannot handle the truth, and that is a belief system with which I completely disagree. Children are truth seekers.
One of the highlights in my classroom career was that the children and the adults always spoke honestly with one another. Once quality relationships are established between children and adults, safety is created. When safety exists, risks can be taken and that’s how learning occurs. We cannot shelter the truth from our children. We need to respect them enough to tell them the truth in a developmentally appropriate manner.
I often would prefer to be with young children than with adults because young children are open-hearted, open-minded and full of awe when it comes to learning. With a combination of awe, an open heart and an open mind, children are naturally inclusive, accepting and able to celebrate diversity. They are not prejudiced, and they are eager to discuss things and be problem solvers. They learn through experience that generosity leads to generosity.
Since we are what we pay attention to, let’s pay attention to having an attitude of gratitude, and let’s help our children become the very best they can be by ensuring their socio-emotional growth. How we foster this is by letting our children know that they count, that their voices are heard. By validating their worth, we inspire our children to become contributing members of the community.
As everything has to be taught, how we accomplish our goal is to actually teach socio-emotional skills, and that is done by having deep discussions that motivate the children to think critically and to take responsibility for themselves, their actions and others.
While authentically relating to one another, there comes a point in the experience where all the stakeholders in the relationship are learners AND teachers. That is how learning occurs… when our roles are intertwined. Based on this reality, mutual respect is born, and it grows.
What is most important about my philosophy is that the responsibility to teach our children well is on us, the adults. When we model our best selves, we inspire our children to become their best, and we solidify our understanding that our roles and responsibilities are as both learners and teachers. This exchange then ensures the growth and development of our humanity at its best.