One of my greatest joys is to be able to sit back and observe, truly take in and watch what the kids are doing. I love to hear the laughter, the making up of games, the impromptu negotiations that happen when everyone is engaged.
One particular day as I was observing a child of about 14 months old was playing. She was climbing in and out of a wagon and I heard one of the three year old kids say, “She’s capable!”
My heart soared when I heard that. I think of the many times I have said that to not only adults but to the children as well. We are all so eager and quick to jump to the ‘rescue’ of children. We often don’t give children the time and space to figure things out on their own. I have worked really hard at taking a breath and a step back when children are struggling. They often come up with their own creative solutions. When children are stuck in “I can’t do it” mode or have never been giving this opportunity before, I try to help with a question or two to get that thinking going. I find great joy in hearing “I did it!” when children discover that they can.
My program is built on my strong belief that children are capable. Adults seem to be so quick to jump in and open the play doh container, pull the wagon, push the swing, draw the picture, solve the disagreements… for children. Is it because we believe children need us to do all this for them? Is it our need to feel needed?
Marie Montessori said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘the children are now working as if I did not exist’. ”
What does this mean to me? It means I have to set up the environment, support the children socially and emotionally and give them the tools and confidence they need to manage situations on their own. Am I still here if they need me? You bet!! …but an adult will not be around all the time after they leave here and enter school. I want them to leave with the belief that they are capable.
Recently a child was riding a bike, then briefly left it to get something and came back to continue her play. When she returned another child was on her bike. I watched from a distance as she was clearly telling him she was not done with it yet. He argued and tried to get her to ride something else. Neither was budging. I walked over, knelt down beside them and encouraged her to keep going. She repeated she wasn’t done yet and added that he could have a turn when she was done. Each time he argued his need for the bike, she repeated her message. After a few minutes of this back and forth, he got off and went back to his original bike. I was proud of both of them; her for clearly standing her ground and being assertive (not passive or aggressive) and him for getting her message. I often hear my kids telling each other, “when you’re done with that, can I have a turn”. As the kids get older and can navigate this, there is less taking of each others stuff and running to an adult for help and more working together.
I want to do everything I can to help set children up for success and be independent thinkers who can stand up for themselves and others and know they are competent, capable problem solvers.