Wouldn’t it be fun to be footloose and fancy-free? I fantasize about what retirement days will be like, if I ever do retire.
But being the kind of person that I am, I will forgo forgetting my true destination and go to school to enjoy the “colorful” atmosphere inside my building. There are all the beautiful children of all sizes and colors to spend the day with.
Each day unfolds with the established school day routines for the students. Lining up and coming into the building; putting things in lockers; opening activities in the classroom and following instructions; learning new math, reading and writing skills; going to lunch, recess and specials; packing up and going home. A full day for little people ages 4-11.
My days consist of meeting with students, parents, grandparents and staff to support their needs. Then there are a few weekly meetings, professional development, room visits with curriculum, group sessions and after-school activities.
It’s a full day each and every day.
Recently, at a staff personal development time, our building principal reminded us that our focus needs to be putting the children’s needs first. She knows she is speaking to the choir on that issue.
I have the privilege of working with a very dedicated staff. Even the most difficult children receive the support and love they need. Building a relationship with the child is the basic ingredient in being able to teach the child. Our staff excels at doing just that.
It doesn’t matter if their parents are rich or poor, straight or gay, black or white, immigrants or citizens, uneducated or Ph.D.’d. We focus on the child.
I admit that I am blessed to have the working environment that I do. There are glitches and bumps in the road at times, but I always feel that we are heading in the right direction by putting the child first as our focus.
I wish the world outside my building was following the same goal.
Too many times I see people react to the parents of a child in a negative way, never thinking about what impact the messages they are sending to the children that see them do this. It may be an eye roll or a snicker or a stare upon seeing a parent who displays tattoos or body piercing, is overweight, is gay, wears different style clothing or head dress, has a same-sex partner, or a partner of different ethnicity or racial background.
It may be a totally unconscious act of the observer to eye roll, snicker, point, shrug, turn away upon seeing someone who is different than she/he is. At that point, I hope that the child does not see these behaviors directed at the person that they know and love as their parent.
I spent the first month of school visiting classrooms and discussing with the students what mean behavior and bullying behavior look like. I encouraged them to make good choices and make our school a safe and welcoming place for all children.
Then, when the bell rings, they leave this environment and go out into the world and are confronted with the prejudices of those around them. It could be their parents or family members that act prejudicially toward others, or are the recipients of prejudice.
Just as we Michiganders enjoy our colorful falls and want to see them last as long as possible, I wish we could see the innocence of childhood stretched out just little longer. Maybe if we all look into our own attitudes about people who are different than we are, we can find a way to allow a few more children to know and love each other and their parents just the way they are.
Fred Rogers, a pioneer in children’s television programming, had it right many years ago when he always ended his children’s television program by looking directly into the camera and saying, “I like you just the way you are!” Yes, I do!
— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist