A photo and a poem are stuck in my mind. The photo is of a drowned three-year-old Syrian child, lying face down on a Turkish beach. He and his brother were among twelve Syrian refugees whose boat didn’t deliver them safely to shore. It was all over the internet a few weeks ago. Later, while reading about the photograph, I ran across these lines from Warsan Shire’s poem (http://www.dawn.com/news/1204683):
“you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land…”
These words and the photo won’t go away, particularly in the past few weeks as the theme of keeping children safe has persisted.
We live with a different level of concern about safety than the parents of the Syrian child in the photograph. In our busy urban lives, an array of safety issues face our children every day and safety is a top priority at the Seed. It’s also a balancing act, between giving children opportunities to experience “affordable mistakes” (https://www.loveandlogic.com/pdfs/every-dad-can-be-a-hero.pdf) from which they’ll learn, and preventing them from making choices that could cause them permanent harm (e.g. letting them run independently across the parking lot). We address different types of safety at Awakening Seed, including both physical and emotional.
Our playground provides opportunities to traverse the relationship between safety and risk. We let kids play with sticks, build with logs and bricks, and climb structures. Our staff monitors these activities as closely as we can, while also giving freedom. Yes, kids occasionally have scraped knees and pinched fingers. Most of the time they learn from these minor injuries and the choices that lead up to them.
Emotional safety is woven into every part of life at the Seed. We teach children to be kind, inclusive, and the type of friend others will seek out for companionship. We guide children to be trustworthy and treat others in a way that they themselves wish to be treated. At all levels, teachers help children practice using their words and standing up for themselves. If children need extra support to feel safe, whether it’s in the morning saying good-bye to a parent or entering into a game at recess, we provide ways to help. Teaching kids how to treat others kindly and safely is as much a part of our curriculum as reading or math. It’s a life skill we hope all children will take with them into their lives beyond the Seed.
Even with all of this in place, we sometimes fall short. After all, they are kids and still learning how to be in the world. And we are still learning how to give them the best tools to be successful, compassionate human beings. As we continue our work, with the well-being of every child at the forefront of our practices, it is our collective heartfelt intention that the Seed be a safe boat in which our students can travel the seas of their childhood. In so doing, perhaps they’ll grow up to be people who make a difference, people who help the world become the kind of place where toddlers don’t have to lose their lives attempting to reach safety.