Sometimes I wonder how many books have written about education. They are written for parents, teachers, administrators, and of course, children. By no means do I mean to discount the value of these books to society and the audiences for which they are intended. But when I think of the thousands of children and young adults I have faced in the past almost twenty years, I come to only one reality about what is needed in the classroom. Books have nothing to do with it.

Children of all ages want us to listen to them and pay attention to what they’re saying. For the course of a day, they are one of a row, a group, a team, or a community of some sort. It becomes much too easy and expedient to lose identity and more significantly, importance.

Our children always have something to say. To them, it is the most critical part of now. Conversation may be about home, family, church, neighborhood, or any other community. They want us to know about their siblings. Very often, they want us to know about their pets. Sometimes, they want to talk about travel, either in the past or the future. And most of all, they want to share their feelings about anything and everything.

The best way to win a child’s attention is to pay attention. Create a space where you and he or she can share some time in earnest communication. Be mindful of listening to every word, phrase, and sentence.

Because the opinions of children rarely change the world or any immediate situation, we tend to postpone them or in some ways, indicate that what they are saying is of little value. We will say, “I know you want to talk to me, but I have to make dinner.” Or we can say, “Let’s talk about this after I do the gardening.” Maybe it’s a better idea to postpone the dinner or gardening.

While I am not suggesting that you change your priorities, I am saying that focusing on what children have to say will mean more to them than any toy or game. We only get one opportunity to be parents, grandparents, or educators to our kids. The best way to let them know how important they are is to take the time to hear what they have to say. Shalom.

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