Wednesday, June 27, 2007

listening to our kids

Today in RC I was doing my homework under the table when I read this quote from The Power of Our Words written by Paula Denton.

"When we know students fully we can make better decisions about curriculum, classroom management, and discipline that will fit their needs"

This rings true to my philosophy of teaching and I felt affirmed because knowing my kids is something I perceive as one of my strengths. Then I read

"To be understood is also simply one of the most basic human needs. We all need to feel understood to have a sense of belonging and significance. To be motivated to learn, children need to feel like they belong and are important to the classroom community. "

The reference to our basic human needs made me begin to reflect on my kiddo I previously blogged about, the one who would tell me, "You hurt my heart". I always wondered about this little guy's sense of self because for most of the year he would only draw himself as an animal. Cat, dog, goat, or horse, but never boy. His disabilities limited his communication skills and so despite how hard he tried he never was able to get through to me, and in return, I was never able to really get through to him.

How frustrating that must have been when I knew the other kids so well. When they'd come in the door I'd ask about their moms, little brothers, soccer games, trips to Chuckey Cheese, etc. I'd always greet him when he came in, comment on his new hair cut, shoes, or ask him how his weekend was, but never any deep connections. In the room where everyone else clearly felt significant, important, and that they belonged, he probably felt like an outsider, or perhaps, less than human.

Maybe I asked him too many questions when really I should have been listening and pausing to reflect on the answers he gave. "My dad sick" led me to jump in with "Oh no! Is he in the hospital? Did he go to the doctor? Is he coughing?" and other questions that he couldn't find answers to. Something about his dad was clearly bothering him and maybe I'd have understood it better if I'd just paused instead of probing for the answers. I wanted to have more to listen to, when really I should have listened to the few words he spoke to me.

No wonder he frequently sat under tables refusing to come out. When he tried to communicate with me I pushed him away with my enthusiasm, scaring him with my questions and demanding answers he didn't know. Because of his language I don't even know if he meant to use the word 'sick' to mean physically ill. Maybe he meant mad, sad, or even on a trip.

These quotes made me think about our special ed and ESOL kids who struggle to communicate. As educators we know the importance of listening to our kids but sometimes there has to be other ways of listening besides traditional oral communication. We have to think about the weight behind each word and gesture to fully understand some of our little ones.

1 comment:

Suzanne G. said...

It sounds like your special little guy was feeling very vulnerable. I don't think that the particulars of his dad's illness would have helped you. It sounds like he needed a huge hug and the knowledge that you will protect him.

With any child, special needs or not, it's adults who can give us the best factual information and kids the best emotional. I forget that a lot.

It's also important to note that when adults are vulnerable, they revert to the child state. They are bundles of emotion and don't communicate well. That makes situations like yours, even more difficult.