By Beth Pinyerd
Every year, early childhood teachers love to have a classroom Treasure Box full of trinkets, stickers and toys to reward good behavior, good class teamwork and individual efforts for each and every child. Too, there are other kinds of Treasure Boxes we teachers have — Treasure Boxes from the hearts of teachers to their students.
One of the special classroom centers I enjoy is seeing children rotating through the art center. A fresh white sheet of paper stretched out on an easel or table just waiting to be painted or drawn on by the hand of a young child. The blank easel page waits for the artist’s touch. This is the way it is with a child’s life. It awaits the touch of a parent or teacher in order to be encouraged. Let’s see what we can pull out of the Heart Treasure Box.
In our Treasure Box of the heart we have POP — Positive, Optimistic, Peace, Play-Doh of praise and the three E’s for a brand new school year: Encouragement, Endure and Embrace.
Young children love the gift of POP. Tell them it doesn’t refer to soda pop, fireworks or even popcorn. “P” stands for being positive. Point out to your child that each day is a gift from God and is very special. Point out things as you go to school that are good and happy like the sunshine, animals, birds and fun places. As they wake up, tell them that it is going to be a very good day.
“O-Optimism,” equals hope. When we think of hope we think of faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Ask your child “What are some things that you hope for today?” It may be making a new friend, making a good grade on a test, enjoying the different subjects in school or having a good lunch.
P-Peacemaker: Point out to your child that it is better not to argue with family or friends but to help others and to be a peacemaker. Peacemakers try to help other people and share with others.
One of my favorite centers in the early childhood classroom is the Play Doh center. Just like Play Doh is bendable and moldable, young children are bendable and moldable by the words we say to them. Young children need clear lines of rules and boundaries, but they need words of encouragement in order to learn, grow and believe and know how special they are. Like Play Doh, they can be shaped into objects they don’t desire to be or into objects that radiate like the bright colors of Play Doh. It is heart-warming to see a smile or a twinkle in a young child’s eyes when they are praised or encouraged for just being who they are or what they do.
As we face a brand new school year full of hope and some uncertainty, I wanted to share three easy-to-remember WORDS to put in your pocket for those days we might feel overwhelmed. I hope these gentle reminders will help in the classroom as well as at home. They are to stay encouraged, endure and embrace — the three E’s!
Encourage: As parents and teachers, we need to let children talk and express themselves as the year begins. Of course, this kind of conversation does depend on their age. The main truth for children young and old is for teachers and parents to make sure that they are understood and heard. We have to be active listeners. If a child’s learning will be in-class learning or at home with online learning, allowing a child to express themselves during this time instills confidence and courage as they proceed down this new path of learning.
To stay encouraged, we have to realize that a child when they are young is full of imaginary ideas. Too, childhood is such a wonderful time of growth in learning from God’s world. Children are like sponges in learning new concepts. Sometimes, teachers and parents cannot keep up with them. So, when we share inspirational quotes with children, this encourages their minds and hearts which affects their attitudes and behavior. This interaction of listening, talking and encouraging first of all sets up the framework of hope of learning in this new school year. We early childhood teachers love to read and act out Dr. Seuss books. I love one of his quotes which I use all the time in encouraging young children to be confident in approaching new learning tasks — “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Each child is special and unique and what a life gift we give a child when they know they can learn and create.
Endure: I love the definition of endure which is live on, go on. This Classroom Observer had a very difficult time in learning math. Many tears over this subject. I can still reflect back and actually feel the attitude of just giving up. So, I have understood the sinking feelings that my young students have of just wanting to give up. My math teacher met with me when she saw a big wall of discouragement rising up on my face daily. Her encouragement has stuck with me with the quote, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” She backed her words with action in that she worked with me in small steps of understanding until I understood. It was like a ladder of learning and encouragement that she used. “I can’t do it; I want to do it; How do I Do it?; I’ll try to do it; I can do it; I will do it.” She implanted a life lesson of not giving up when I hit small bumps on the road in trying to learn new concepts in subjects I am not comfortable with. Her lesson of helping me has helped me as a teacher to reach out to those students who are having a difficult time in different subjects. I know as parents and teachers we may have students who have special learning needs and it means we may have to go over something several times. But don’t give up, God’s Word in Galatians 6:9 says, “Don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.” We all are teaching very special lives who have a beautiful hope and future. Thinking about that truly encourages us to endure.
Embrace: Embrace means to hold. We parents and teachers can model and embrace that each day is truly a gift from God. The joy and happiness that our children express is a good contagious spirit for adults as well. Embracing our children means embracing everything about them, their good points and their imperfections. When I see children being hard on themselves to the point of breaking into tears if they think something is not perfect, I gently remind them that no one is perfect. Too, in embracing children during the learning process we have to look at the process and effort that they have put into trying to learn and accomplish an assignment. We embrace the effort that they have put forth rather than the outcome.
These are a few heart felt rewards out of my Treasure Box of the heart. I hope they reward you and your child in having a very good school year.