What’s best for children

Just a little note this evening, as the sun begins its descent, glowing its most golden as it prepares to depart … really I must remind myself that it is the Earth turning away, not the sun itself. Which of us would reach longingly toward the last of that light, trying to hold what remains of the day, until encroaching shadows break our grasp … then, the dark. How many of us welcome it, so tired, so needing the sleep, so wrapping night like a thick velvet blanket around us, letting it shelter us, entomb us, savoring the peace and stillness in it … until we turn to first light and morning once more…

I am tired.

But so, probably, are you.

Today I walked through the empty halls of school. I could hear teachers’ voices in rooms as they met with kids online or recorded lessons. I could not hear the children. Through a hallway window, I caught a glimpse of many young faces on a large screen, interacting with the teacher—a virtual music lesson.

There’s something so eerie about it all. Haunting. The hollowness of the place, the distant, disembodied voices. Dystopian is the word that comes to mind. It’s like living in some novel we’d have been assigned to read in high school. But it’s real. It’s writing itself, bringing itself to life…

In snatches of conversation my colleagues discussed the reinvention of assessment for online administration, to determine what kids need, and what makes sense, and what is best for kids…

That line will not leave me. What is best for kids.

It’s a phrase we tossed around so loosely, before. “Let’s make decisions based on what’s best for kids…” but did we always?

I fired up my laptop, went to my little corner of a Google Classroom, and waited, thinking about those words: What is best for kids. Remembered playing games with a blindfold when I was a child. And waking in the night when the power’s gone out, having to feel my way through the dark…

Within moments, however, a cheery little face appeared. Beaming at me. A little voice asking if, before we read together, I could see something made for classwork today. This child—this very young child—splits his screen and presents to me. Then he asks if we will have time, when we are done reading together, for him to show me his dog.

I am sure, just then, that I feel the Earth turning. Steadily onward. Light mixing with shadows.

What is best for children is what it always was. That they feel safe. And loved. And valued. That they get to share things that matter to them. That there’s joy in learning. That they learn to do new things, some they might have thought they couldn’t. That their teachers do the same. That their teachers work together, help each other, and honor each other for the professionals they are. We may all be apart, but we must all pull together… reaching toward each other as we reach out to the kids.

The time goes so fast. My screen goes empty, the child disappears… and comes back with his dog.

It occurs to me that all three of us are smiling…the dog with his whole wiggly body.

Today will be tomorrow soon enough.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share on Slice of Life Tuesday.

8 thoughts on “What’s best for children

  1. This is such a good reminder that what was once good for kids, is what is still good for them. I keep praying that the anxiety and worry will disappear when our kids appear. We still have another week before they arrive. I can’t wait.

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  2. Thank you for these beautiful words. They remind me to focus on the kids because that is what I have been doing my whole career. I need to be a safe place for them to land, and together we can weather this craziness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How we adapt to a new normal way of education is an impressive tribute to educators around the globe. Your introduction is beautifully stated in your usual literary style, “so wrapping night like a thick velvet blanket around us, letting it shelter us, entomb us, savoring the peace and stillness in it … ” This beautiful thought about blanketing ourselves in peace brings us closer to another thought that teachers wish to wrap their teaching in: What is best for kids. I wish you a wonderful year of learning with sweet little children.

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  4. Your theme was echoed by our district’s focus for the first three weeks of online learning: make connections with the students. Curriculum was secondary to this purpose. I have to keep reminding myself not to compare this awkward beginning-of-year with the busy-ness of years past. Priorities have shifted. It is enough to just touch base with students during their precious one hour whole class morning meetings, to sing a song or talk about curbside book delivery. It is enough to be wrangling the logistics of getting books into their hands. It is enough to only think one week, or two, ahead, instead of having my whole year of book fairs and club meetings and conferences mapped out. We are just doing what’s best for kids right here, right now–as you’ve always done.

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  5. Fran, I was sick earlier this week. (Long story) But here I am reading this little slice just when I needed to. The last few days have been tough, maddening really, and this post made me smile. It’s all about the kids. If I keep my focus on that one single, complicated goal, I will get through this. We all will. Thanks!

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    • I almost didn’t write this little post, having been physically, mentally, emotionally spent that day and the days preceding. Adapting isn’t a choice when it comes to surviving…the cheeriness of the child and that happy dog were a balm to my spirit. The power of moments… it was a priceless reminder of what matters most. Thanks, Margaret, and I hope you are feeling much better!

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