I was walking through the hallway the other day when I came across a kindergarten student. Our hallways are very wide.
As we approached one another I smiled. He smiled back.
He walked directly toward me. I moved slightly to the right to let him pass. He responded by moving a bit to his left. He was walking directly toward me so I stopped. He stopped.
There we stood, stopped in the hallway, ready for an interaction.
Knowing that interactions are opportunities to build positive partnerships and drive progressive energy around collaborative learning and growth, I smiled again and paused for a moment.
He said, “Excuse with,” with a smile.
I asked, “Yes?”
He repeated, “Excuse me,” this time with a bit more oomwph.
I clarified, “What can I do for you?”
We continued to smile at one another, standing there facing each other, a bit off center in one of our relatively large hallways.
Interactions with kids are great inspiration for reflective thinking, especially kindergarten kids. They’re generally unrestrained in their thinking and they hardly ever hesitate to deliver the news exactly as they see it, or throw out whatever imaginative curiosities comes to mind in any given moment.
I was filled with joyful anticipation.
Instead of continuing with a statement or a question, this kid simply repeated himself.
“Excuse me!” he insisted again, to which I sidestepped a bit toward the wall.
He walked around me and on down the hallway to wherever he was going.
Turns out, he was simply looking to get passed me. I smiled again as he walked away without hesitation.
It’s not easy to know what kids are thinking about or needing in any given moment. As parents and educators we have to listen very carefully.
Sometimes, we have to wait for needs and intentions to unfold over time. It’s pretty important that we take whatever time is needed to make sure we’re responding in kind.
I have a lot of work to do in this area.
I’m typically in a pretty big hurry with lots of really important things to do.
It’s ironic that whenever I reflect on interactions with the kids I serve, whether I’ve exercised patience or not, I come to the conclusion that it’s those interactions that are truly the really important things.
One of the challenges around paying and giving attention is that sometimes we literally have to keep moving. Sometimes we have deadlines, sometimes we have meetings, and sometimes we have needs that simply preempt our ability to maximize positive interactions.
The “excuse me” interaction turned out to be an easy one, it took me a moment, but in the end I simply needed to step out of the way.
Sometimes we do need to step out of the way.
Sometimes, however, kids are looking for us and not knowing how to express that they are.
Sometimes they even act out so that we have to spend a bit of time with them.
Sometimes they’re looking for us to interact.
Sometimes they need to know that we know how independent they are and sometimes they need to know that we know how important they are.
When we listen with open hearts and open minds, ready to step out of the way or stay put, we serve kids well.
With plenty of work to do in this area I plan to focus on developing my listening to kids skills on behalf of the ones I serve.
I plan go about it by slowing down and attaching a bit of on-the-spot reflection to my listening practices.
I might have to breath a bit deeper in some moments when quick seems to be the way. I think I can get there. I think I need to. I think it’s important.
What strategies do you use for genuine, compassionate, and responsive listening?
How are you focusing on growth in this area?
In it together for the kids.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.