Really Understanding Children

Beverly came to camp a little late. She quickly joined all the campers as we were singing camp songs, hoping no one would notice her.  She wore her signature no-smile, crossed her arms, and plunked herself down beside me. She had been crying, hard, and wanted nothing to do with anyone or anything.

I just knew. I understood, even though I know very little about Beverly.  I didn’t say a word.  That would have been all wrong.  Beverly was much like the other Beverly, Raymie Nightingale’s Beverly.

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The next two minutes felt like a time warp.  It was just the two of us; campers were singing away, and we were alone.  Beverly held her knees close to her chest as if tucking herself in would protect her.  I put my arm around her and kissed the top of her head.  I didn’t let go. Beverly liked that.

Who was this child?  In the few short weeks I have known her, she has been aloof, an observer, sometimes putting on a tough front.  Just like Raymie’s Beverly.  Stomping away and pouting with crossed arms is… well, Beverly.

The easy route is to look at a child, match their behavior to what you know, and then respond.  If this always worked, the number of children who need help and the workload of teachers would diminish, drastically.

What is the magic answer?  Connecting with each child, not you to  them but them to you. There is a big difference.  Children know; they sense everything and are intuitive.  They know if a teacher or an adult genuinely likes them.  They know.

I paid attention to Beverly.  I was not judgemental, even though her clothes were different and her lunches were different.  Different is a good thing, but people often applaud different in the big picture, not the little things close to home.  Acceptance is far easier on a broad scale.  Beverly was not on a broad scale; she was ‘right there’.

Beverly smiled at me later that day.  From across the room.  Today when camp started, she sat next to me and smiled again.

I have a new best friend.  Raymie did, too.

Thank goodness I really understand children.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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22 Responses to Really Understanding Children

  1. Sue Ranscht says:

    You are most likely the first great teacher Beverly will remember for the rest of her life. ❤

  2. Hayley says:

    I work in teaching too – I totally agree that teaching is about acceptance and intuition. Children are very sensitive and for that reason, we must chose our words and actions carefully when in their presence. I’m sure Beverly trusts you and can sense your intuitiveness also xx

  3. “Different is a good thing, but people often applaud different in the big picture, not the little things close to home.” So true. Close to home it can throw you off-balance and take up time you (think you) don’t have because you have to listen instead of talking. There’s a Beverly in my novel in progress. Her name is Glory. She’s in sixth grade. She’s found an adult who likes her, whom she tests in her own way and comes to trust. The adult is only gradually coming to understand what’s going on at Glory’s house; meanwhile it’s bringing up her own childhood memories. The surprising thing is that I’m only gradually coming to understand what’s going on for both characters. It’s as if my story is learning to trust me, and I’m becoming more trustworthy. Your story helped me understand what’s going on. 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Wow, Susanna. Your book sounds interesting and wonderful. I definitely look forward to reading it. If my blog post gave you a bit more to think about and perhaps write about, I am so glad. Many thanks!!! -Jennie-

  4. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Wonderfully written and much felt. Thank you.

  5. reocochran says:

    It takes a special person to want to connect to someone who is troubled and sometimes, belligerent. I am so glad the Beverly’s in your area of contacts are able to have you care truly about them, Jennie. You continue to demonstrate new ways of making a difference in young people’s lives. ❤

  6. Nicky M says:

    Thank goodness you do! There are a lot of ‘Beverly’s’ out there just waiting to be understood and accepted just as they are. What the world needs now, is more people like you. If we taught our children acceptance – we would never have to teach diversity 🙂

  7. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  8. You are so right that kids can tell whether we like them. And finding things to like about kids is easy 🙂

  9. Deb says:

    Beverly is never going to forget you! You have made a great impact in her life. Beautiful story.

  10. Bravo! Well done. 🙂

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