What works for one person does not always work for another. As a parent and an educator, part of my job is to figure out what works for my children and my students, and then incorporate that into the learning/growth experience.
Today I found out that I’m really funny…to a toddler. In fact, if I were a stand up comedian, I would bring the house down at a preschool! The problem is, the silly nonsense that engages my two-year-old is not always the most engaging stuff for me. This morning, I was doing some adlib at the breakfast counter. Little man was feeling cranky (a slow wake-up). There was a steady whine emanating from his mouth, which fluctuated in pitch and volume depending on the his message.
Responses came in the form of high-pitched, shrill, eardrum numbing, noises accompanied by wriggly, off balance, occasionally jerky, full bodied motions that repeatedly threatened to propel him off the counter chair he was barely hanging on to. That would have been a disaster. When not responding to anything, the whine was dull and droning. Like the ever-present hum of florescent lights combined with an extended run of fingernails across a never-ending blackboard. My eye was twitching. Something was going to have to give. I decided to pull out my most authentic Cockney accent (mediocre at best) complimented by a monster hand, a squinty eye, and a half raised lip, “Aw-right,” I began, “it’s time foe me to tickle yaw tummy!”
The toddler stand-up routine was working. The whine slowed to a stop and became a giggle. The long face scrunched up, his mouth became an ear hammock of a grin. It was working! The problem was that he wouldn’t let me stop. “Do it again Daddy!” He must have said it twenty times. It got to the point that the sound of my own voice doing that silly accent was more distasteful to me than the whining I was working to get rid of. But then a light bulb went off. This kid was happy. He was engaged. We were enjoying time spent together. We were pretending and being creative.
Like a flash, an idea popped into my head. I decided to parley the fun we were having into an extended activity. We got the pirate ship, we populated the couch with dinosaurs, dolls, and giant stretchy lizards. We grabbed big brother and some blankets to build a fort. The next couple of hours unfolded quite naturally from there. Each incarnation of the game we were inventing built upon the previous one until it was time for naps. I learned a bit about how to transition with these guys. More importantly, their interests and needs guided the play this morning. Good times for all!
It’s not easy to get excited about every experience we have as parents or as educators. However, our excitement (while arguably important) is not always as important as our children’s and/or our students’. When we find moments that learners are enthusiastic about, we should work hard to capture and build upon them. This morning I noticed that the joy my boys were experiencing through my silliness and pretend-play made it all right that the games were repetitive and not inherently engaging for me. I was having fun because they were having fun. I was engaged because they were engaged. Consistently, when I focus on keeping the joy and engagement of those I’m working/spending time with in mind, that the work/time we spend together will be more rewarding and meaningful for everyone involved. This is turning into another “being present” lesson for me. It must be worth my continued attention. I’ll keep working on it!
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.