Dear Adult JTLYK about starting school and first impressions

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True Story

Q: (Parent) How was your first day at school?                                                                                                   

A: (5-year-old child after 1st day of school) “It was great mum, the teacher talked all day long and I got to think about my favourite animals in my head when she was talking.

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One must admit that at first, I felt a wave of embarrassment move through me as I knew exactly what this child had experienced. The first day of school, so many things to be covered, so many things children need to know about school. Messages delivered by excited teachers and often anxious teachers about the year ahead. I have done this, I still do this but thanks to the insight of this very wise 5-year-old I am now conscious of it and although I have certainly not mastered the concept of child-centred conversations I am  better at listening to the little people instead of rambling my to-do list out loud.

The feedback from this child, was not about me directly, but clearly about teachers in general. This comment went on to shape me as a teacher more than anything I had learned at university, professional learning sessions or from any book I had read. This comment by the very insightful 5-year-old could not ever be reversed in my head as a form of accountability on my part as a teacher. After all, in my profession as an educator I am and should be accountable to the student first, then all the other stuff. In reality, if I play my cards right and do my job well and most importantly drop my ego at the door before entering this sacred space that I chose to share with such wise creators (I’m talking about the classroom) then the learning can be nothing but student driven and purposeful.

When the students arrive, just like the guests at a dinner party, they are more likely to notice the experience and the human interaction rather than the matching napkin holders. Certainly there will be admiration for such pretty things assembled in Pinterest Perfection, but that admiration will wear off quickly when the dinner host is cold and resentful of all the effort he/she has put into creating such a table.

I must admit, I am a little sceptical about the rise of The Perfect Pinterest Teacher and the Perfect Pinterest Classroom. No doubt I agree with the need to provide comfortable, organised and inspirational learning spaces. Let’s face it, nothing says I hate my job more than a classroom full of mouldy coffee cups and walls covered with wrinkled student work on display from 1997. But teachers are not interior designers, what looks good may not necessarily be good and it gives our beginning students the impression that the world values beauty and perfection over everything else. Whilst many great ideas were born and shared on Pinterest, a teacher who is not engaged in collaborative and purposeful planning is likely to be picking ‘work’ that looks good instead of planning and facilitating learning that fosters student thinking, inquiry and explicit strategy-based learning for numeracy and literacy according to where the student is at, the individual child’s ‘zone of proximal development’, Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934)

Also, JTLYK the same child replied to this question from his mother on the first day of his second year at school. True Story!

Q: (Mother) How is your new teacher?

A: (6-year-old child) Exactly the same as last year but with a different head.

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Dear Adult

JTLYK about starting school and first impressions.

I didn’t really think about school as much as you did. I saw it as a place, somewhere in the future that I would go to one day, but only after you told me about such a place. It didn’t exist in my imagination. I never imagined that there was place, a building of some sort filled with children who were all there for the purpose of learning things that mostly adults had decided were important to learn. Before I started school, I didn’t really spend that much time thinking about the future. I enjoyed playing, exploring, talking and thinking about things that I really liked. I spent my time in the present, doing, creating and simply being.

I know that some adults are still very uncomfortable with the concept of student-centred learning because they think that if children are allowed to do what they want and what they like then they will become selfish, ungrateful and not follow orders from important people like adults. However, as a child I think it is really silly for adults to be doing the same thing as other adults even if they don’t like it or even if they are not good at it. For example, some adults are not really good at being teachers or doctors or shop keepers but they still do it and they are really unhappy when they do it. That doesn’t make sense to me. I like to do things that make me happy, things that I am good at. I like to watch and learn from people who are doing things that they are good at like playing the piano, designing a cool game or building an amazing cubby house.

I know for sure that if more adults were actually doing what they were good at and at least liking if not loving what they do, there would be more happiness in the world. If the adults were more happy, then surely they would see that children, at least until they are adults, seek to be happy before they seek anything else. When children and adults are co-creating in a space of happiness, then the need for power, control and ‘battle’ is not required.

When I arrived at school, I was very happy to follow the rules when the teacher took the time to show me and my friends how the rules keep us safe and respectful. I liked it when the teacher pretended to fall over the chair that was not pushed in properly under the table. I also liked it when the teacher from the classroom next to us came in and pretended to be rude to my teacher and then my teacher pretended to be sad. It helped me to think about how other friends might feel. It was also very funny. I remembered that.

I also liked it when the teacher noticed that I was feeling a bit nervous being in a new, big school and when they held my hand to reassure me. I liked it when the teacher noticed that I  happen to know a lot about dinosaurs. In fact, some of my friends actually think I am a dinosaur expert and I love it when I get to share the things I know and love. I liked it when the teacher smiled and talked slowly as though we had all the time in the world to explore and enjoy our learning journey together,  You know, 5 and 6-year-old children have no concept of time at all so we just feed off the stress and anxiety about time through the adults in our world. It was nice when the teachers could join the children and be fully present in the moment, instead of rushing to finish because they were already thinking about the next thing on the list.

I liked it when the teacher made an effort to really get to know me before deciding who I should be. The teacher observed what I could do before making me do things that I really couldn’t do. It was really nice of the teacher to do that, especially when they noticed that I could not hold my pencil like some of the other children in the classroom. It was a big deal for the teacher,  I know, because a teacher is an adult and an adult mind would worry that if I couldn’t hold the pencil properly, I wouldn’t be able to begin my journey as a good writer. But the teacher did not pass that worry onto me. They kept their adult worries to themselves and noticed all the other things that I could do really well. The teacher noticed that I had good ideas when we were sharing things about our learning. The teacher helped me hold my pencil properly, but in a quiet and gentle way so that nobody noticed how difficult it was for me. With the teacher’s patience and belief in me and without a struggle, I learned to hold my pencil and began to write some pretty awesome stories.

When I started writing words, the teacher didn’t cross out the words that were incorrect, instead they put a smiley face on the parts that I got right and gave me ideas about how I could think about replacing the parts I got wrong until I worked it out myself. Most importantly, somehow as though the teacher had some special magic powers, they did it all without even using the words right or wrong. That made me feel safe to try, take chances, discover, learn and grow.

I noticed that the teacher always felt happy when another adult came into the classroom and made a comment about how we were such a good team of learners. It made me feel very proud and I also felt like I really belonged in the classroom surrounded by other people who were equally valued and important just like me.

When I got angry or frustrated and pushed my friend to the ground, the teacher didn’t see me as a bad kid without any respect or manners. They didn’t write a story about me in their mind based on what they saw in just one moment. The teacher did not judge me or label me and tell all the other teachers to watch out for me. They didn’t start a process that would see me placed under a teacher microscope for the rest of my days at school. The teacher didn’t see my actions as an intentional act of disrespect against them or others. The teacher acknowledged that I struggled sometimes to keep my hands to myself when I was feeling an emotion that was overwhelming for me. They noticed, that for me, an unfair situation such as another child pushing into the line was a big deal. The teacher helped me understand what I was feeling and that I had other choices instead of pushing my friend to the ground. They showed me that I could take deep breaths, or shake off what I was feeling, to use my words and tell my friend, “hey, that’s not fair, I was there first”. After all, it was the teacher who chose to be a teacher and when you choose to be a teacher I guess that helping us kids to become the best version of ourselves should be high on your list of priorities. It is not possible for every child to be the same. I cannot be like the student sitting next to me. I’m glad that the teacher didn’t expect that from me, I would have wasted so many years of my life trying to be like somebody else instead of learning (through lots of bad choices and mistakes) how to be the best version of myself.

Anyway, what I liked most about that day is that the teacher made me move away from the other children when I pushed my friend. This showed me that I should learn how to manage myself better. The teacher made it clear that if I was being unsafe, I couldn’t be part of the team. They made me take responsibility for my actions and understand that although my world is all about me, I need to know how to be me around others, because the world is also full of others who are busy being themselves. If we are all better versions of ourselves then we become a very happy ‘us’. A community of interesting individuals, who have different beliefs, talents, challenges, likes and dislikes. A community of individuals who have all come from a different place but here, at school, in our classroom, in our magical place of learning, we are all in the same place.  A place where we are all valued as equal and important. In that place it doesn’t matter if my parents are doctors, lawyers, rock stars, unemployed, drug addicts, happy, depressed, angry, content, loving, caring, good or bad parents. It matters that I am there in that place and I have the right and chance to become the best version of me. I have that chance with a teacher who chose a profession because it is something they are good at and something they feel happy doing. A teacher who is able to put aside their adult worries and concerns at least during the time that the classroom is filled with the energy and creativity of little people like me.

YW

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Most teachers choose to teach because they love it and they are good at it. However, even the best teachers will be unable to bring the best out in their students if they are in an environment that does not support or value them. Just like students, teachers also need certain things from their school in order to thrive.

Teachers will thrive in schools where they are treated with respect and where their craft is valued.

Teachers will thrive in schools where they are allowed to speak and have an opinion.

Teachers will thrive in schools where professional communication is achieved in an ego-absent environment.

Teachers will thrive in schools that value happiness.

Teachers will thrive in schools that recognise and reward hard work and long hours.

Teachers will thrive in schools that provide ongoing professional learning.

Teachers  will thrive in schools that have up to date resources.

Teachers will thrive in schools that are fair for everyone.

Teachers will thrive in schools that are professional and organised.

When teachers thrive in schools, the whole world benefits as every child unfolds into a person, ready to make positive contributions to their community, whether it be local or global!

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In the eyes of a child

Hello and welcome to my first post. The ideas that I share about life and all the aspects of it are forever changing and evolving through conversations with other like-minded people and interestingly, with people who hold very different beliefs to me. My stories have mostly been shaped by the little people I spend a lot of time with. They’re called children and if you sit still long enough with them, you can hear their stories, not only through words, but also through their actions, their ideas, imagination and their innate compassion and love.

I have always wanted to write about these experiences but have given in to fear every time. So I asked myself these questions; What am I afraid of and why has it taken me so long to begin writing? After much thought I came to the conclusion that I have a deep-seated belief that words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. I investigated further to try and find out why that line kept playing in my mind. I found it, thanks for that Pearl Jam!

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However, to extend on that belief, surely words and actions eventually do fade into the past. But words printed! Ouch!! I’m afraid that what I say today may not be what I believe tomorrow because my views are always changing the more I learn and the more I experience life. Surely, there are things we believe are truth our whole lives and those fixed beliefs are often fundamental in forming our inner values, our views, our likes and dislikes. But I know for sure, that twenty years ago I held the view that a hot jam donut is the best dessert on earth, without having ever tasted a creme brûlée. More concerning than my lack of experience in fine food is that once upon a time we thought the world was flat, that children should be seen but not heard. I think you can see where I am going with this. So that said, I hereby state that I take no responsibility for any written word that may not be relevant tomorrow. Let’s just live in the present tense shall we.

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Another writer’s block that I have had to deal with is the question of; who am I actually writing to or for? I think that in my profession, I have seen and heard so many adults talk about what children need. Teachers, parents, grandparents, psychologists, speech therapists, councillors and generally speaking any human being holding the title of ‘adult’. We’ve researched, debated, even argued about what children really need, yet I think that children have been telling us all along. We just haven’t listened well enough to the children themselves. So I decided that I really didn’t want to be another adult talking about what children need. I then came up with the idea of directing this Blog from the perspective of a child, writing to the adults of the world.

How could I write from a child’s perspective if I am an adult you may ask? Well, after spending two decades of my life as a primary school teacher as well as teaching mindfulness and running yoga therapy sessions for both adults and children, I have great insight into how children really feel and what they think, mostly because they tell me! I have thoroughly observed and written many notes on the things that I have learned from children. I know that a child’s perspective is always more refreshing than that of adults. Let’s face it, the world is full of adults at the moment, adults in high places,  many of them who really have nothing intelligent or useful to say. Adults in high places who are willingly and purposefully spreading messages of fear and hate.

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I have reflected on my experiences working with children over the years and also my experiences as a mother, to intuitively write from the child’s perspective. It is without a doubt in my mind that although I have taught a lot of things over the years, nothing has ever or will ever be a greater teacher than life itself. Life for me has revolved around children, so my greatest teachers are the children I have worked with, including my own son. When you read these posts, know that DearAdult is just as much me as it is you. I am not a ‘superior’ adult with special powers, I have just become an adult who understands children differently than the mainstream world does. I understand that when a child is showing us something unpleasant, it’s an invitation to help them instead of judge them. I am learning and will continue to learn with you, through life and through the children who are constantly showing us more and more than we can ever imagine with our own ‘busy’ minds.

This Blog is about children but for adults. It is about getting over the small stuff, tapping into the bigger things in life; love, creativity, imagination, enthusiasm, happiness, content, joy, compassion, forgiveness, non-judgement, peace and understanding. This Blog is a celebration of all things that bring life, renewal and positive perspective. It is a celebration of our mistakes as much as it is a celebration of our greatest achievements. From every mistake, comes greater clarity and understanding which leads to more love and compassion, for everyone.

Today, I firmly believe that that the adults of the world should back off for a few minutes (me included) and listen to what the children have been trying to tell us about the world and about life. Tomorrow, however, especially if I am feeling tired I may be inclined to think the opposite, maybe. Just joking.

Dear Adult,

Just to let you know (JTLYK) . . . about my first few weeks.
You invited me into your life, well maybe I invited myself into some families but regardless, I am here. Is that something we can agree on and something we all know for sure? Ok great, I am definitely here and yes you may have thought that children would not change your life but that seems to be one of your adult misconceptions built upon an idea that it is possible to control everything around you. Life did change, I guess. Some of the changes were good ones but a lot were unexpected and tiring. Can I tell you something?  No offence, I know you had great intentions and all, but a lot of the stuff you spend so much energy on, the stuff that makes you really tired, well it’s not really that important to be quite honest. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for that very expensive designer pram I strolled around in my first years, but all the research, all the time you spent on the internet and at the shops comparing prams and picking the one that was just right, it would’ve been nice if you just spent more time telling me stories while I grew. Nine months is a long time to just sit around and grow and listen to conversations about prams, nursery colours and baby sensors. Again, thanks for welcoming me in a fine manner and yes it was lovely to have all those things upon arrival to my new abode, but just so you know, I would have preferred more music, more laughter, more fun and less worry while I grew.

The other thing you need to know about those early days is that I tried really hard to teach you how to adjust to me being around and being so small and needy. For example; I cried when I needed to be held but some of you kept going straight to reference books to look up all the codes and make endless predictions about why I was crying. Not every baby comes into the world the same way so we don’t all need the same things. Some of us need to be held more, others are quite okay with longer periods of time on their own. There is no right or wrong amount of time to hold a baby. It’s more important to know when a baby needs to be held. Just like knowing when a teenager needs to talk, it doesn’t really matter if it’s the right time for you, sorry to say this but as a parent, as an adult, it’s just your job to be there. Once we are adults, we won’t need that same reassurance if you give it to us while we are growing, when we need it.

Also, I  didn’t need so much noise coming from the television. All my senses were adjusting after making the transition from the warm, quiet and nurturing comfort of the womb to the business of the physical world. I was quite happy gazing out of the window and watching the leaves sway gently in the wind. Without the television in the background, I could listen out for familiar voices, from my parents, grandparents and friends. Those people who spoke lovingly, reassuringly and peacefully. This made me feel safe. You didn’t know it at the time because I couldn’t tell you in your language-the language of words, but in my language of inner knowing and feeling, I was trying to tell you that when you were relaxed and happy, so was I.

The other thing that made you tired but made no difference to me at all, was making sure that the house was orderly and perfect. Of course, I am glad that you were organised and knew exactly where the nappies were when I needed to be changed. I’m grateful that I always had dry, clean clothes to wear and that you sterilised my bottles because my baby body was sensitive and I needed you to protect me from the harmful bacteria in my new environment. But it was not necessary to fuss about and worry when the dishes were not washed or if the house did not resemble a page straight out of a designer magazine.

I tried to show you what I needed, but since I wasn’t yet talking and since that is the only language adults can understand, I may have done some unpleasant things like cried really loudly, at the wrong time and for a long time. I’m sorry about that.  I know adults are very busy worrying about adult things most of the time, I just wanted you to know that all I needed was your time and your love, of course endless amounts of milk as well.

By the way, there’s something else that you should know about my first few weeks. I never ever judged you the way you judged yourself. I knew for sure that you loved me and I could forgive you for all the mistakes you were making. Besides, I was fully aware that it is typical of adults to find it really hard to learn new things without feeling stressed about it. You may feel like time went really quickly and you don’t remember much. Maybe it hurts you that you were so tired and feel like you didn’t  really enjoy those baby days. Well I can reassure you, those days were long for me. It was not easy to just lay around all day waiting for food and other essential items required for survival. I will remember those days forever. I will hold those feelings of love and comfort deep within my heart and I shall tap into those feelings of unconditional love that you gave me for the rest of my life. Everything else will be forgotten, the love will always remain.

PS: in regards to the love remaining part, just keep in mind that maybe, it is possible, I’m just saying, that someday, in someway and for some unknown reason I may claim to actually hate you. So, luckily for us, we have already had this conversation and you know that since my heart was filled with unconditional love from you and the infinite place from which I came, then even if I claim to hate you, it’s not true because it isn’t possible to erase the unconditional love from the heart centre. It doesn’t work that way. Some other feelings may accumulate in the heart centre, such as; anger, hate, frustration, jealousy etc. However, the core, which is what was there in the beginning, will always remain. Handy isn’t it. So in that case, I will let you in on a little secret that I will tell you now but would certainly NOT tell you when I am older. When I do behave that way, most likely it will be during my pre and/or post puberty days, don’t get angry with me. Anger will just feed my own anger and make things worse. Send me fragments of unconditional love that you will always have for me but in a quiet and non-intrusive way. Example; make my favourite food, the smell alone will emotionally take me back to a place of love and comfort. Or play some nice music. Mostly, try and stay loving, because the more loving you are, the more guilty I will feel (just joking) It has nothing to do with guilt. It’s actually more about showing me, instead of ‘telling me’ that I am distancing myself from love and my true self.  With every fragment of love that you respond with, the more my heart centre will re-connect with the unconditional love within myself. Also, feel free to share this information with any of my friend’s parents and other adults but please don’t tell anyone that I told you.

You’re Welcome (YW)