Building Positive Relationships: Finding Their Element

Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creativewas extremely thought-provoking for me. In an age whre most people state that creativity peaks at age 7 (a topic that we will definitely visit at a later date), Robinson states that creativity can be very much alive and well in the adult, provided they find their passion – that element that allows them to experience the joy of working, creating, and discovering. Most people seem to go through life in a haze of dislike for their work but resigned to doing it anyway – and since this seems to be the norm in society, no one questions it. It seems to be the exception rather than the rule that one find fulfillment and happiness through their work.

I find that one of my jobs as a teacher is to provide different avenues for children to express their creativity. It is almost like a treasure hunt, because each child is different and each child likes to express their creativity differently. One may love to color and one may love to paint. One may love to play with sand and one may love to build with blocks. One may love to get messy and one may not like mess so much.

The key to the treasure hunt is to provide as many different experiences as possible, observe during those experiences, and brainstorm new experiences off of those observations. By observing children’s reactions to different experiences, we can help them find avenues for their creativity that they enjoy. If we let others in the child’s life know about the avenues the child seems to enjoy, they can expand and extend the experience for the child. And through their experimentation and expansion, new avenues to express creativity may emerge.

So what does this have to do with building positive relationships? Well, for starters, everyone seems to appreciate being supported in an area of their lives that they enjoy. This is no different in children. In a time when children are told “no” seemingly all the time, it is up to us, the advocates for children, to be the ones to tell them “yes”. There is a woman whose page I follow on Facebook who posts all the time about telling her children “yes”. And the way she phrases it, you can tell that the things she says “yes” to are things that the children have either asked to do, or are things that may have gotten a resounding “no” if not for a pause in which one asks the question, “Well, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do this?” Her children will most likely find their element quicker because they have been allowed to experience and experiment throughout their childhood. And they are also experiencing the respect from their parents that, even though they are kids, they are capable to learn  how to maneuver their way through life. They are also capable to learn from their parents about aspects of life through modeling.

Children are sill learning about their world. In order to gain a full understanding about the way the world works, children should be allowed to experience their world as much as possible. We have all had something in our life that we didn’t fully understand. Usually curiosity will drive us until we gain understanding. But if we feel that our curiosity is being stifled, we will lose our curiosity, and may lose interest in something that may potentially be our element. The same is true of children. One of the worst things we can do to a child is to stifle their inborn curiosity by not letting them experience and experiment with life.

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A Different Atmosphere

I started a new job at a new center this past week. It has been a very interesting experience, one that has required me to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth closed as I take in what has proven to be an entirely different atmosphere from where I came from. And everything that I have witnessed has been the antithesis of what I have been trying to learn and discuss on this blog.

So after the first day I was questioning my sanity as it related to why I wanted to switch jobs in the first place. After the second day I had pretty much convinced myself that I was insane. And then the third day came.

I had worked very hard at the end of the second day to convince myself that I could at least try to make a difference. I could bring what little influence I have into that center and grow and evolve just like I did in the last center. I can continue my education (I have just recently started going back to school as well) so that, when the time comes, I can become a consultant or something so that I can help centers who have this atmosphere gain the knowledge and support they need to develop a new and better atmosphere, one where the children and teachers are learning and growing and experiencing life together in a loving, caring way. I spent half of the third day with my mind fighting with itself, telling me that there is no way I will last in this place, there is no way I can make a change, trying to come up with little ways that I can make a change.

I will be working with older children in summer camp this year, something that excites me to no end because older children have thought processes that are different from younger children, so the experiences that you can bring to them can be more complex in nature. I am actually looking forward to piquing their curiosity about the world around them and encouraging them to experiment and come up with ways to learn more about the world and how it works. Because right now those kids are bored. They come from school every day and spend their time as any other bored child does: looking for ways to break their boredom. And since there isn’t much offered to them to experiment with or learn from, they spend their time experimenting with how their actions are going to affect their friends. In other words, there is a lot of animosity and negative energy in the classroom right now.

So during the third day I was fighting with myself, and I came upon an unexpected ally in my quest: the current teacher in the classroom, and the one I will be helping. I’m not sure what has happened in the classroom to turn it into what it is now (because apparently it hasn’t always been that way) but I know that they lost a teacher a month ago, and apparently she was “really nice,” according to the children in the class. So the teacher and I talked a little, and we have similar views as to the purpose of daycare for this age group (which is not to have them sitting around being bored; they have done that all day). But there is more to it than that, and it will take work and more talks to achieve the results that we need to. I think that this week we are going to start with a few science experiments. That should get the kids thinking and and experimenting and working together. There are also some classroom structures that I am going to implement, such as a schedule and jobs for everyone. That should help too.

I think that my biggest problem is going to be realizing that nothing in this classroom is going to change overnight. But with hard work and consistency this classroom can become just as smooth and fun as my last classroom was.

Of course, if anyone who comes across this post would like to suggest anything to help, I would really be open to advice. I have worked with this age a little bit, but not a lot, and it is an entirely different ball game from working with three-year-olds!