Last Friday morning was a popular time for water play, so the sand circle was flooded more extensively than normal. I had the pleasure of being on duty for lunch recess and got in on some excellent water play action. One thing I noticed right away was several children attempting to cross over the water via makeshift “bridges” constructed by overturning metal pots and bowls. This activity kept quite a few kids busy, crossing the water with varying degrees of success. Nobody fell in fully, but more than one or two returned to their classrooms after recess with wet shoes.
One child captured my attention. Normally a boy who spent the most of his recesses running around with friends, I noticed him engaged the entire half hour stepping from bowl to pot, testing out different approaches to crossing the huge puddle of water. If one of the bowls was unsteady, he’d pause to adjust it so he could cross without losing his balance. He was both a scientist and engineer as he tested and retested his path for traversing the water. Occasionally he miscalculated his steps and ended up with drenched shoes. Each time he’d look up to see if I noticed he’d stepped in the water, almost as if in anticipation that he might be in trouble for doing so. I acknowledged that I saw what had happened and chose not to say anything about it. He continued his experimentation, completely immersed in his chosen activity for the remainder of recess.
I thought about this boy for the rest of the afternoon. The time I spent supervising recess gave me a glimpse into this child that felt like rays of sun entering an open window. I’ve known him since he was a toddler and witnessed his growth through the preschool years. I’ve watched him navigate life his social life, practicing the fine art of how to be a good friend. He’s learned many valuable lessons in his years at the Seed, about himself and his peers. He’s come to trust his teachers, his care givers, and himself. This child has found a love for learning and a confidence in taking risks and trying new things.
The experience of seeing a child in a deeper way has come as a result of decades of observing children. I tell the young poets I work with, “When you look with a poet’s eye, you see things differently.” Our staff is diligent about truly seeing each child as he or she is. In this way, we come to know each student and enable him or her to make progress in whatever manner is most appropriate. In so doing, we encourage our individual students to take the necessary steps toward a fulfilling and happy life, one step at a time. As Lao Tzu said, “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”