Our Efforts Matter
Note: I will be using they/them to describe children
In this profession it can be difficult to see the effort you are putting in and the changes in your students. It is easy to feel like you’re drowning in tasks and behavior management all while engaging in a job you have an enduring love for. This year my coworkers and I have discussed feeling like we are in survival mode often. This is frustrating because we are all devoted to our profession, but we feel like we are making little impact on our children this year. I believe what we do matters to children and families’ lives.
I feel strongly Early Childhood Education is important for several reasons from over the years of working in this profession. I have worked with children and families with varying needs and accommodations, each with their own hardships and strengths in and outside of the classroom. In one scenario, I remember kneeling in front of a child who was strong-willed and challenging to work with. I was talking to them about cleaning up. In response the child kicked the cabinet behind them, and it started to topple. I reached my arms out around the child to block the cabinet, all while the child had a stern look of their face. Despite this seemingly spiteful moment, I kept an even tone and was able to move on with the child. My coworker within the room looked over and notified me that I had too much patience. I loved working with this child despite these struggles and worked with the family as a team to grow from these moments. Fast forward a few years and I now see a strong, independent child, who says hi to me every time they see me and is flourishing in their classes and in their family. I never realized the relationship I had made with this child and their family and the impact I had on them and them to me. This is a child I reflect on often.
In this profession we are always documenting, assessing, refining, applying, and moving on. It is very fast paced and easy to miss the impact you are having on children. For example, another child I hold dear to my heart challenged my own personality and temperament. They had their own needs and accommodations as all children do. While maintaining a patient and loving relationship with the child, we were constantly going toe-to-toe with one another. This child went from saying they hated me to having the biggest grin when I walked into the room. We worked through finding the right modifications to fit their environment to encourage them to try new things.
While it can be easy to forget how valuable what we say and do around children matters, it so very much does. My last example is a silly one but holds true to my statement. My catchphrase one year was “oh biscuits”. Children often seemed to not notice and continue to play- others definitely noticed. This became a phrase I would say to myself in self-talk when I was overwhelmed but needed to keep going. One time during lunch, one of the children’s milk spilled, which was a common struggle during this time of the day. This was disappointing to them, and it was a battle to get through the big emotions. However, this special day, they looked at me and managed to break a frown into a smile and said, “OH BISCUTS!” and then laughed. The child was then able to get paper towel and giggle at their fun moment of mimicking me, without my assistance.
No matter the day, the circumstance, or the child, we as adults are always making an impact on children. In a profession where we are taught how to best teach and enrich children’s learning we hold the most meaningful and impactful gift of influence. On the days where things look grimace and you find yourself in survival mode, remember that people like me believe what you do does matter in the lives of your children and families.