On January 6, 2020, our first faculty meeting back in the new year, one of our soft start invitations for writing included responding to this quote from Donald Graves‘, A Sea of Faces:
Our days are pressured and we push children aside in order to get on with the lesson. The more I know a child the more I can expect of him. My face and voice carry a tone that says “You know things and I can’t wait to find out what they are.”
In the few minutes we had to write, I scrawled this in my notebook, adorned with the phrase, “Always Believe”:
A perk of my job is that I see kids, year after year. I can show up and spot the little body vying for some love and attention-but most of the time, I already know who they are. I feed off of the way they soak up our time together-they way they sit up a little taller, lean in a little closer, smile a little brighter…where I see what they can do, what they have done, and we explore together what they might be ready to do next.
I recently got to spend some time in a first grade classroom, for really the first time this year. I was introduce to a new friend, Gary, who I had heard a lot about, but hadn’t formally met yet. I spent some time working with Gary on his all about book, his topic was “All About Gary.” Together we reread and celebrated all that he had included in the book. We also began to explore how he might be able to teach even more. As we worked together, I was aware of the eyes around us watching and the ears listening. That morning, I made my way around the rug area and conferred with each of the boys that all happened to be working on the rug that day.
Then, the next day, I showed up again and made a point of checking in with each of the kids I had met with the day before. “I see you’re writing in mostly lowercase letters today,” I said, glancing over one student’s shoulder. Or, “Wow! You’ve added more than one sentence to every page in every book in your folder!” I was aware of the kids, who a few days earlier had been slightly off task, now working away, maybe waiting for their turn for some quick feedback.
That week, I went into this same classroom day after day, always checking in with the crew from day one on the rug, along with others. I was encouraged by the things they were trying and the ownership they were taking in their work. I was reminded of the quote from the soft start invitation, “My face and voice carry a tone that says ‘You know things and I can’t wait to find out what they are.'”
Towards the end of the week, I was walking down the hall, back to my office after being in a classroom. I spotted the first grade class coming down the hall, on their way back to their room after lunch. Gary’s eyes met mine. Before I knew it, he was walking out of the line and towards me. Then his arms were wrapped around my waist. Then each of the boys from the “rug crew” stepped out of line to give me a hug.
My face beamed and my eyes welled. Sometimes I forget why I am here and then I am reminded…
I see kids.