Heart-breaking truths that resonate through to the depth of your soul. There are a lot of things that are unjust with the world… As a teacher, to advocate for the children, to let their voices be heard; that, is something that drives me, gives me purpose, and the meaning of life.
Empathy is a crazy thing. As a child, I was naive and unaware of how precious life was. I didn’t understand hardship, I couldn’t empathise with struggles; I guess I had lived a privileged life.
But as I grew to understand more of the world and how much of it couldn’t be under one’s control, I started to change. To even try to put myself in other’s shoes had devastating effects on my emotions. Pain, sickness, suffering… It is understandable that so many of us close ourselves off so we don’t feel it.
Yet it is precisely the depth of pain that moves me. Humans have such capacity to withstand deep, violent emotions; it is incredible, marvellous and so humbling to witness such resilience. And it is precisely the sad greatness that awes me with how much more we must be capable of carrying joy, of spreading love…
So I carry on, let the sadness wash over me, and I keep on sitting with the pain of this world. It is what little I can do.
They say that a teacher’s expectations of their class significantly impacts on the class’s achievement in test results. I feel the same way about young children, how we expect them to behave often directly correlates to the choices they make. So when I noticed that I intentionally lowered my expectations for the most important people in my life – families, friends, partners; I had to reevaluate. Sure, it would be great if I could take things as they come and just have zero expectations for future events. Unfortunately being THAT ‘present’ is too far a stretch for my wondering mind…
So it came down to a choice, of taking that risk to be vulnerable (see fear of disappointment). Over the past few months, I’ve experienced such joy and restored much faith by allowing myself to trust.
I trusted that my friends would be mindful. Alice, remember that day that I dropped you off to get your car, and you offered to cross the rails and let me drive on? That made my day.
I trusted my family to be supportive. When my brother helped me with major service of my car on a weekday, he showed how capable he has become, and I’m so proud.
I trusted my dates to be considerate. Forward planning, locations, time of the day, what to do… I haven’t been disappointed by the logistics for a long time. Chemistry can’t be forced, but I am still so appreciative of the good in the people I’ve met. Of course, not all of them have been lacking in that department… so we’ll wait and see how that pans out.
You’d think these are the basics, but it took a lot of courage for me to trust in others. And you know what? It’s so pleasantly surprising how mature the people in my life are.
By taking a chance, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the beautiful souls around me. Not only do I now have more strength to keep up high expectations; I feel like I can handle rejection and disappointments better too – by not taking it personally. Just like sometimes even the most well-behaved child will accidentally break your favourite mug, we can’t focus on the stains in the rug. I’d much rather just choose to hope and believe in the best in everyone.
What you see in others is a reflection of yourself. I’d like to take that bar I’ve lowered and add some wings to it. Sky is the limit. Let’s soar.
Does your work make you question you who you are as a person? Mine does. Constantly.
The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia defines one of the Learning Outcomes as “Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect.” (LO 1.4) which is evident when children “reflect on their actions and consider consequences for others”. How often do we do that as adults? The first example that comes to my mind is driving. Yes, you can all relate, I know you can. Do we always practice this? I know I don’t.
The framework is to me, so full of wisdom that go far beyond a guide for my teaching practices or something just for children. I refer to it on a daily basis, and it serves as a constant reminder for all the things I still personally strive to achieve, to maintain, to appreciate and to honour. An ongoing learning, challenge, and journey, to achieve these life long “learning outcomes”. The EYLF is unbelievably comprehensive, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to confidently say yes I can see evidence of all of it in myself. Yet to me, life, is exactly about this integrated and complex learning and development that never ends.
The 25 pages of outcome descriptions depict so many core values that will affect one’s actions for the rest of their lives and follow them to their graves. If all of us had such values instilled in us in our early years, would the world now be a lot less greed-driven and a lot more ‘caring, empathetic and respectful’? Will we then be happier, as individuals, as well a collective whole?
Perhaps it is naive and idealistic, but I really do believe children are the key to our future and the early years make the most significant differences in how the world will be shaped. One day at a time, starting from being a better role model, I will strive to make the world a better place, one child at a time. ; P
[Day 58] dreams.
I’ve been noticing a change in me.
Growing up, I’ve always been quite self-conscious… But I was blessed with friends that allowed me to be crazy; to let loose; to not care about what others may think.
Then I moved away from those friends, changed countries. And the invisible eyes came back to stare. I had a taste of what it was like to live carefree, and I’ve slowly worked my way towards it. Lately though, I noticed a breakthrough.
SING. I’m no longer afraid of breaking out in song when I please. Sometimes it makes other people uncomfortable, but come on, laugh with me!
DANCE. I rejoice in feeling the music with the movement of my body – beyond the confines of my room. It just, makes me happy : )
WRITE. I’m clearly comfortable in being over-sharing of the truth I see in myself. But hey, what’s life without the deep & meaningful and the connections they bring?
DRESS. I still like to dress-up (so much fun!). But I’m comfortable rocking dagginess with zero make-up too.
These were the things I had consciously thought about working on. Oh if only I had the courage, if only I didn’t care. Well, no more if only’s. I’m here. But wait, there’s a surprise for me. An unintended freedom to:
DRAW. I’ve always known how much I can’t – but it doesn’t matter anymore!
I recall as early as kindergarten how the teachers would come around and look at everyone’s drawings. I was always conscious of what they may say. I hated having to show them, unless I was really, REALLY pleased with what I’ve done (and even then, I clearly remember one time I was so proud… got totally shut down with an ‘oh that’s nice’). I was always comparing myself to others. There was never the courage to just create, I was only ever comfortable with copying something I knew looked nice – most of the time someone else’s drawing. Because I self-rated ‘not good enough’. Since I was 5. If not earlier.
That’s no longer the case.
Looking at how much joy the scribbles bring children everyday, it has rubbed off on me. All this time the mantra “it’s not about the end-product, it’s about the process” that I mumble to myself constantly, has had an unexpected profound effect on me. Who cares if I can’t do much more than a scribble. Who cares if you can’t hold a tune. If it brings you joy, it’s worth doing!
Oh the endless blessings of working with children!
[Day 56] joyous gratitude.
Every child is different. As an early childhood teacher, I need to cater for each individual personality, need, and background. I can read up and research different strategies; I can change the way I talk, the words the tones the structures and the content of what I say. I can give them attention, love, and all of my patience.
But there are times that I still feel small and inadequate when I talk to parents. Despite all the children I have built relationships with, despite all the connections I have made, the growth I’ve been a part of… I still feel like my words carry less weight than it should.
Because I am not a parent. I just don’t understand. Apparently.
One day. Humph.
[Day 49] let me whinge a little…
Taken to a popular cafe with freshly baked goods and a great atmosphere this morning… As we sat down in the glorious February sun, we found a bucket of water with four squirting water guns by the table. I saw my friend’s hubby’s face light up as he picked it up for a play – “what a great idea!” the new dad said, squirting water into the plants on the side. My eyes wondered and found a tub of chalk casually placed on the side. It moved me deeply – such lovely, thoughtful attention to detail in creating a relaxing space… I’m sure it is greatly appreciated by the people with young children, but it also inspires the playfulness in the rest of us! Time for some sidewalk graffiti? : )
I love being an early childhood teacher. People often say to me, “you must have a lot of patience”. I think that’s always relative. Sometimes, there’s only so much you can do before you feel helpless and wanna white flag it.
It’s been a tough year with many challenges (already! I know!). One of the most discouraging is making me feel like I just can’t get through and I keep hitting a double brick wall, expecting it to crumble at my tiny fist… When I am in the comfort of my own home I know that frustration is self-inflicted. It stems from my own values, judgement, and expectations of how a three-year-old should behave. Sure, she is the only child who will climb on everything to get to the teacher’s things; sure, she is the only child who continues to drink from every water-bottle but her own; sure, she is the only child who continues to take plates full of fruit pieces, have one tiny bite out of each and scrape it all… She is three, but unlike her peers. I need to remind myself that she is an only child who grew up in a household with no boundaries, where she is provided with endless options of toys, food, clothes, and parents apologetically lets her do whatever she wants, whenever she wants.
I know that it is my own perspective and my own expectations that need to change. Don’t get me wrong, she is absolutely beautiful when she gets one on one attention – smart, coordinated, great communicator. However in a class of 20+ with three staff, we can’t always spare one staff to give her that attention. She has been in the centre since she was a baby and she is a full-time enrollment (5 days a week), which means it is difficult to always have new things to engage her in.
As a team, we really are trying everything we can think of. At least we have each others support, and the support/sympathy of other members in the centre…
Just my low energy whinge for the day.
I am still grateful that I have this challenge to keep my mind active and my patience practiced! Lots of room to grow.