My Eyes Adore You!

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Every year when our young preschoolers and primary students enter our classrooms our eyes truly adore the young lives that God has sent our way!

This year, due to coronavirus, teachers and students (ages 6 and up) will be wearing masks for the safety of our children and community. We educators will be communicating a whole lot with our eyes to instill security and happiness into our young students.

We Baby Boomers remember Frankie Vallie’s song, “My Eyes Adore You,” in reference to young childhood romance and crushes as childhood neighbors walk home from school together, helping each other carry their books. This song won our hearts just like a joyous classroom of young students wins their teachers’ hearts.

Teachers will be doing a lot of “eye talk and teaching” this year to socially set a positive classroom environment. When young children see you get excited about learning something new from the expression in your eyes, this will set a positive tone in the classroom. Parents, too, can adopt this for home learning! I know we teachers will need to be flexible in our teaching methods of presenting phonics, language communication, reading, math facts and more. This article supports the social, emotional, affective domain in encouraging and motivating young children to learn.

As we know, a single look from a teacher or parent can convey a lot of meaning. Early childhood teachers realize that eyes are necessary tools in teaching and communication. We use a lot of expression verbally and nonverbally in teaching our young students new concepts. Eye contact, too, can encourage our young students who may be having learning challenges.

When we are teaching young children, nonverbal cues are part of the process of teaching. Winking at a student when they have learned a hard concept like telling time, pronouncing a hard word or showing patience in taking their turn to answer a question, is a way that our eyes can encourage confidence in learning. The eyes can show surprise, happiness or sadness. When we are reading books to our classes, our eyes convey a lot of expression as we act out the story. Our eyes widen with surprise in reading exciting and happy parts of the story. Our eyes convey the plot of a story whether it be happy, exciting, curious, funny or sad!

I realize, as an older teacher, that learning teaching techniques is ongoing! I have observed and gleaned so much from my fellow teachers, young and old, in different methods of nonverbal cues.

Hand signals are valuable in the classroom for promoting good classroom behavior to keep the learning process going. This nonverbal format can be adopted for at-home virtual learning. Masks, unfortunately, cut down on talking and verbal instruction.

1. A simple way to get order in the classroom is for the teacher to simply raise a hand to get the class’s attention, to stop talking and to turn their eyes to the teacher; then students raise a hand to show they are all on board for learning.

2. One of my favorite sets of hand signals, which seems to work, is to communicate “look” by pointing to my eyes, “listen” by pointing to my ear and “don’t talk” by putting a finger over my mouth or mask. This always sets the students up for learning.

3. Students raise hands to take turns to answer questions.

4. Class-decided signals for when students need to go to the bathroom.

5. Thumbs up when answering questions “yes,” thumbs down for “no.”

Early childhood teachers use a lot of visuals that can be seen by young students to guide the format for learning!

One unit completed in the early childhood classroom is ‘expressing how you feel.’ Young children love to do this with their eyes. Love can be expressed from the eyes. Anger and sadness can be modeled and expressed with downcast eyes. Joy can be expressed by eyes lighting up with happiness. Children love to see this kind of expression. Even with masks on, a mirror can be used as they display different expression with their eyes.

Lessons can come alive with eyes and hand motions and nonverbal cues from other body parts too.

For example, we can nod our heads yes when a student is trying hard and answers the questions correctly, or we can lean in to truly listen to our children or young students at eye level. When young children meet their teacher at eye level, it helps them feel more secure and makes them feel that they are important and loved!

A gentle reminder to parents with young children: August is “Children’s Vision and Learning Month.” Since we are starting school in August, this is a timely goal in informing and educating parents and educators on the important link between vision and learning. August is also designated as “Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.” Your children’s doctors can guide you in making an appointment to have your child’s eyes examined.

We are going to have a good school year!

Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

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