By Kaileigh Reed
I have been letting my mind wander during these quarantine days. My wanderings have led me to ponder this question: What is a teacher? Or, more accurately, who is a teacher? Right away, some adjectives flood my mind like, kind, patient, emphatic, flexible, versatile. But is a teacher just a list of pleasant-sounding qualities? And yet, in other views, this list can look more like authority, in charge, in control, strong, strict, polite, etc. In my time working with children, I have found a different list to offer. It is less of a list and much more of a process-a process of becoming.
One morning the children of Little Owl were playing under the beautiful California sun. I, a little tired, was contently observing the play in action. As my eyes roamed the yard, they caught sight of something intriguing-a boy with his head slightly down and a sad look on his face. Three children surrounded him. The children around him had their hands placed along his arm and back. I moved in closer to take in a little more. Quickly, I realized the three children were offering the boy comfort. I paused and thought, “Those three children, who do not often play with each other, took a moment to see this sad child, and offer comfort.” I wondered, “how often I pause my agenda to notice someone else?” You see, it was tempting to walk away from that moment with just a sweet sentiment and the cuteness of children; it was incredibly endearing. But I believe I would have been missing an opportune moment. One where the children were the teacher, and I was the learner. To recognize this moment, it required awareness.
I once heard this quote: “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swims on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the heck is water?” In my pondering, I am noticing that simple awareness helps me see what is often hidden in plain sight. And, what I have found hiding in plain sight, is that I am being called to become what I am asking the children to do. Time and time again, I have heard myself say to a child, “it is ok to feel angry and sad.” But, how often do I believe that for myself? I say the process matters more than the product, but how often is that true in my actions? I am now learning to allow the process of becoming a teacher unfold before me.