Getting to Know You

Hedda SharapanA teacher once told me that September has always been a challenging month for her. It’s a few weeks into the beginning of the school year, and she’s just starting to get to know the children and their families, and they’re starting to get to know her.

She told me that while she’s excited to work with her new group of children, now and then she gets sad and even kind of irritable. It took her a while to realize where those difficult feelings are coming from -- she’s missing last year’s children. She knew them so well by the end of the year. “But,” she said, “you just have to let go of them.” That helps her free up her energy for this year’s group. If you’re dealing with some of those feelings, too, I hope you know that’s natural and that you’re not alone.

It takes a while to build relationships with the children and their families, so I wanted to give you a video that may help as you’re learning about the children and they’re learning about you. It’s a light and fun segment that I often use in my presentations, and it always gets a great response.

All of us in the studio were sure Fred was going to redo that scene, but he deliberately kept it in because it conveyed some really important messages…messages that can be particularly helpful at this time of year:

It’s hard to learn new things.

You could see how much trouble Fred had trying to learn the hand motions to Ella Jenkins’ song. It’s even harder to learn about a child -- his or her strengths, weaknesses, temperament, interests, concerns, ways of dealing with feelings. And you have a whole group of children to learn about. It may be even harder to learn about dealing with each of their families!

We all make mistakes when we’re learning new things.

Did you see how many mistakes Fred made with those hand motions? What a great reminder that even adults make mistakes, especially when they‘re working on something new or unfamiliar.

You, too, are just learning about the children and their families, so there may be times when you might misjudge a situation with a child or family, or say something that you wish you had said differently. But remember that children and parents can be forgiving, especially if you talk about the situation with them afterwards and continue to work on your relationship with them.

Keep trying.

Fred never gave up. He kept on trying through the whole song. In fact, he even worked on the motions after Ella left! Fred was the executive producer, so he could have stopped the tape and asked to start over. Or he could have asked Ella for an easier song. But he wasn’t afraid to show himself trying and failing... and working at it...again and again.

Persistence will help you, too, when you’re learning about the children. Keep in mind that it takes longer to get to know some children (and some families). You may have to try the same strategies a while…or try new ones. Relationships grow little by little. Trust builds over time. I’ve come to learn that progress usually depends much more on persistence than anything else.

It’s a real gift to laugh at yourself.

I think part of the fun of this scene is that Fred was able to laugh at himself. What a great lesson for all of us. A sense of humor will carry you far – all year long!

Through this video and all through the Neighborhood, Fred reminded us that we’re all only human, and that being human is good enough.

P.S. This summer I was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Family Child Care. I have always had a great deal of respect for family child care providers, and I want to say a special thanks to all of my NAFCC friends from whom I’ve learned a lot over the years.

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