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edu180atl: kate strother 8.30.11

We’re big. They’re little.

We know that a fight with a friend in sixth grade isn’t the end of the world. But that argument might be the biggest problem to that child today.

Your 2001 problems probably weren’t as complicated as your 2011 problems, but this doesn’t invalidate those struggles from ten years ago. At that time, those problems were important to you. Did someone take the time to listen? How powerful it is when another person stops, looks into your eyes, and says, “Tell me what’s going on. Your problems are important.”

We encourage our students to see the bright side. But in a moment of nine-year-old despair, sometimes a child doesn’t want to see the glass half full right away. He wants to tell us what’s awful. He wants an adult to listen, to take his problems seriously without patting him on the head and assuring him that one day he’ll understand why he’s repeating the fourth grade. Let him be sad. Ask him, “What is the worst part of being in fourth grade again?” And give him time to really answer.

Today I was reminded of the importance of opening the door to a real, raw conversation where a child is allowed to tell you what’s in his heart. I remembered how important it is to stop everything else and look into his eyes, not at the computer or the papers on the desk. Let him hear–and feel–you say, “Your problems are important.” Allow him time to be sad and then help him fill his glass at least halfway.

About the Author: Kate Strother is thoroughly enjoying her sixth year as a school counselor at Teasley Elementary in Smyrna.  Read her thoughts on her blog here.

Image Credit: HalfFullHalfEmpty by Jin via Flickr Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike-Noncommercial

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yeah, Kate, aka “Cake”!! I always knew you would be such a wonderful woman and educator! You go girl!!

    August 30, 2011
  2. Kate- so true! We forget how it feels to be 10 years old with all the problems in the world. Thanks for the reminder to be patient and approachable.

    August 30, 2011
  3. Stephen G. Kennedy #

    Having taught sixth grade English years ago, I recall those experiences when it was crucial to recognize nothing mattered but the child needing an adult to listen — right now, please, pay attention. Kate, a beautiful comment. Thank you!

    August 31, 2011
  4. Sometimes we drift from a stable focus on the emotional needs of our kids (especially the big ones). Thanks for the redirection!

    August 31, 2011
  5. Sherise Harris #

    Thank you Kate for reminding us to just stop and listen with your heart..Kids do have real issues and just like us big people want to be heard! Way to go!!

    August 31, 2011
  6. Kate,

    Chris Lehmann, principal at Science Leadership Academy, regularly speaks to what you are describing in his keynote talks. He reminds us, as you do ever so well here, to “care for” those students in our care, not just care “about.” Looking into their eyes, and allowing them to share as opposed to rushing in to “fix,” we give our students something so important: a piece of ourselves that communicates to them “you matter.”

    I loved how Abeliene in the movie The Help spoke to the child she raised: You (is) kind. You (is) smart. You (is) important. She could not fix the problem of her mother’s not loving her, but she could love her and she could help fill the cup a drop at a time.

    Your students/community are blessed to have you be so present to them. Thank you for reminding us to be more present.


    September 2, 2011
  7. Maryellen Berry #

    Kate, great post! Hearts are healed when someone cares enough to really listen. You have undoubtedly healed many hearts.

    September 2, 2011
  8. Kate,
    I love this post. How true that sometimes what children (and adults) need most is to be heard, validated, and loved rather than “fixed.” I love hearing how you model this practice in your school. Your thoughts are inspiring to me as in all of the various roles I play–teacher, colleague, friend, etc.
    –Jen via wmshistory

    September 3, 2011
  9. Millie Pryles #

    How fortunate those children are to have you as their teacher.

    September 27, 2011

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