I believe in relationships. When a child is frustrated and throws the same block for the tenth time resulting in anger and despair bubbling to the surface, I believe in relationships. I believe in connecting and empathizing and listening. When the ABCs are being sung and the letters are being written in messy indecipherable lines, but the child in the corner is hopping on the couch pulling down yesterday’s art project, I believe in relationships. Relationship is finding their need, meeting their need, and seeing them as a person and not a problem. Relationship shows up when the child runs into the classroom and wraps their tiny arms around my legs; when the child falls and their tear filled eyes search the room to find mine. They know that’s where comfort can be found.
I never intended to be a teacher. I was going to go to India to study tigers in the wild. I never intended to be a teacher because I was going to be a zookeeper. Yet, once I started, I knew where I belonged. I started teaching over a decade ago as an assistant in a small childcare center almost by chance. When I moved to my next center, my dedication to relationship motivated my director to talk to me about becoming a lead teacher. She invested in her relationship with me. She gave me new responsibilities and mentored me towards building better relationships with my team and the children in my care.
When I entered LCC, I already had years in the field and hours of education, so I was not expecting to learn much. However, I did want my education to be ‘official’. I quickly discovered that there was much to learn.
The first classes I took taught me relationship, so, I practiced it. I learned how to connect with and see children as people better. I’ve learned how to build deeper and stronger relationships. I’ve learned the skills and strategies for uncovering who these little people are to help them love themselves. Not only that, but the educators who took the time to teach me in LCC classes invested in their relationship with me. They took the time to offer feedback and listen to how I was implementing what they taught. They cared. Because of this, I believe in crafting lesson plans so intertwined with the interests of the children that it seems like their plan and idea. I believe in the power of observation and open-ended conversation as part of building relationship and empowering children to know all that they are capable of. I believe in authentic connection with young children through child-led play that leads to laughing, thoughtful questions, and a deep love of learning.
Relationship is so often the answer when there doesn’t seem to be one. It is the foundation for everything else we do. Academics and content are key components of teaching, but I believe everything must be ground in true and genuine relationship. When there is nothing left in my tank and nothing left in theirs after a day of big feelings, there’s still relationship. I believe in play, warmth, connection, smiles, and conversations. I believe in relationships with children because they are our future. I believe in relationships because our world needs peace, inclusivity, empathy, community, and connection more than ever and that starts in the little hands, faces, and hearts of young children in the classroom. It starts with relationship. It starts with me.
Relationships are foundational.