Respect. We all want it, and - no matter our age - we all deserve it.
Mutual respect is the rock solid foundation of the most constructive and productive relationships, from the classroom to the living room to the executive boardroom.
In mutually respectful relationships, everyone feels 'seen' and acknowledged. Total agreement is not a requirement, but it's certainly a lot more likely when people treat others they way they'd like to be treated.
Of course, this is where 'modeling' is essential, because children learn with and through relationships.
As early childhood educators, we are graced with so many wise and experienced mentors in our field. Vivien Gussein Paley is one who honors children deeply, and through her work provides an inspiring example of the best ways to teach.
"If readiness for school has meaning, it is to be found first in the child's flow of ideas..." writes Paley in her 11th book, A Child's Work. Paley advocates for reverence of the child's ideas, and she identifies the teacher's role as partner in respectful dialogue.
Reflecting honestly on her early years as a teacher, she missed opportunities to learn from children, while she focused entirely on being the "bestower of place and belonging, of custom and curriculum, too often ignoring the delicate web being constructed by the children in their constant exchange of ideas the moment I stopped talking..."
Paley is now a champion of play, for the effect that stories within a playful environment ignite - providing layers of social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development opportunities.
Underlying Paley's signature story "curriculum" (her approach of following children and facilitating play with occasional questions) is profoundly respectful of children's abilities to express and work out important ideas. "Whenever we are reminded that there may be a story involved, our minds seem to loosen up and and work better."
Kids' Own Wisdom peer group discussions align with Paley's respectful approach. Visual representations of familiar situations and challenges elicit children's stories, and often inspire play during other parts of the day. Our training helps teachers develop their own questioning and listening skills, while enabling children to collaboratively engage in constructive story telling around topics relevant to their own lives. When teachers listen with undivided and respectful attention, they model the respect we all need and deserve from one another.
Can you imagine the long term effects of growing up on a foundation of collaboratively constructive and mutually respectful relationships?