Heart centred teachers understand the difference between reacting and responding in our interactions with children. Reacting is an impulsive, auto pilot response that often puts up barriers to connection. It does not consider feelings, and often carries an unfair back story and conveys messages of distrust and frustration.
In contrast, responding comes from a heart place, is considered, and fosters relationships. Responsive teachers measure their words instead of letting them tumble out unchecked. Their body language and tone match their words and they are attuned to the impact their behaviour has on our children. They treat children fairly, with warmth, and without judgement.
The relationships are key.
Is your community built on kindness, care and respect for each other? Is responsiveness central to all of this?
Responding, as opposed to reacting, allows us to be mindful in our practice, and promote our best selves, and the children’s best selves.
We respond to children with empathy because we always keep in our hearts what it must be like to be this child in this moment, and also remembering back to how it felt for us to be children.
How did we like to be treated? What fostered connection in us? What built us up, made us feel capable, and told us that we were loved regardless of any mistakes we made on our journey? What did we really need to thrive?
When our responses come from the heart they can touch a child’s heart.
They fill the child’s emotional fuel tank, and also our own. For anyone confused about the difference between reacting and responding we’d say to tune into how you are feeling. What does your gut tell you? When we respond thoughtfully to a child we come away with a feeling of satisfaction because we kept kindness at the core. When we react, we are left with feelings of unease. We’re not left feeling any better than the child. We believe an adult DOES know the difference if they’re brave enough to examine themselves with honesty.
As heart centered teachers we aim to create a wonderful place for children. We consciously put every effort into making it so. However, just as importantly, it is a wonderful place for teachers, and the value of this can't be underestimated.
This is when we can operate from a space of response. We can be mindful because we have an environment that values a slow pace.
We value calmness and this gives us time to pause before acting. We value each other as people, and have respect for each other’s practice and so we know we can take the time we need to get it ‘right’ with a child.
We value ‘being’ as much (if not more) than ‘doing’ and so we’re not hurrying to tick boxes, and meet quotas or deadlines. We are in a place that is just prime for responsive practices because we are so intentional about what it is that we do, and why.
We choose to operate the way we do to combat the reactivity that surely follows in an environment full of hurrying, stress, competition and excessive noise. We ensure our environment is set up to nurture what we need to give our very best to the children.
We do this not just because children deserve our best (which they undoubtedly do), but because we also know that everything we do, and everything we are, is absorbed by the children.
We are always role models of social graces and behaviour and this responsibility is not taken lightly. We know that reactive adults are likely to see the same reactivity in the children.
Children imitate us through no fault of their own. Responsive adults on the other hand are modelling thoughtful, kind and careful interactions, and an attitude of friendliness to error. Aren't these the sorts of social behaviours we'd like our children to 'catch'?
(This article was adapted from a previously published blog post 'Responding from the Heart')
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