School is in full-swing, and fall is in the air with crisp morning air and football Saturdays. Time flies! In fact, fall break is just a short 3 weeks away. So, as the first interim reports are distributed at school, it’s been long enough to adjust yet we are still figuring things out.
The classroom procedures have been taught. Most kids have someone or something they like to play on the playground. And, we have learned that some of our children’s quirks. If you work in a school, you know that the first month is a whirlwind! Name tags, Open Houses, moving desks, cramming the day with new curriculum, and then also trying to get to know our kids. It’s busy! (for educators and parents!)
It can get so busy that we often forget to recognize the whispers. Sure, we hear the obvious. We hear the children tattling and whining. We hear the fighting. We see the test grades in red ink. We celebrate the goal they scored in the soccer game. Often, we only respond to the loudest and most glaring feedback as parents and educators while overlooking or not noticing quiet signs of growth. With both the good and the bad, it’s easy to overlook the whispers.
What do whispers look like and why do they matter? Well, this year I have met a tiny first grade boy who doesn’t speak….at all. He has not muttered a single word inside the school doors this year so far. In fact, until last week, we had never seen him move his lips or even attempt to communicate. He can and does speak at home but never at school. He’s a selective mute.
This is problematic for many reasons of course. He has to be able to communicate for safety and academic reasons, as well as with friends. So while he’s also slipped through this first part of school, this has become a personal goal of mine, to help this child find the courage to speak.
He’s had the opportunity for the past 3 weeks in my ‘friendship group’, yet hasn’t come around. He comes with 8 other children to my room once a week for 30 minutes. And, he’s my shining star for sitting quietly in his own space. Yet, he needs to be able to also participate in sharing with the group. So, last week before he came, I told him that I wanted his to mouth a couple of words because I knew he could do it (secretly I wasn’t sure he would but I told him I expected him to). The children in this group are working towards a minimum of 5 good choices in which I give them immediate feedback with a check on their paper. If they earn 5 or more ‘checks’, they may play for 2-3 minutes at the end. This little boy hasn’t been able to play so far in the friendship group because he hadn’t made all the choices I needed him to, like trying to communicate. But, this week, I believed he could do, told him I knew he could, and by golly, he was the first student I called on to share how he was feeling.
He chose the happy card and mouthed ‘h-a-p-p-y’! I couldn’t hear his voice but he very clearly articulated the word. I was beyond excited! He was the first child to earn a ‘check’. You might be thinking, big deal? Yes, it was a big deal! He also mouthed, ‘thank you’ when I prompted him to again at the end of the group. A smile was included and that was his choice! It truly was the highlight of my day.
While thinking about my week this week, this moment kept coming back. Then, I also remembered when another student actually took her old school papers out of her folder at home, finally, and did her homework. And, then there was the boy who was so angry and could have easily escalated to fighting another boy yet chose to walk away with me to the hallway. And, another girl who has worked weeks to earn a ‘blue’ on her behavior chart and delivered a signed note from her teacher at Open House that she achieved it. Then, there was the time at dinner when my own son realized and articulated that he has been taking his anger out on me and he’s sorry. These are the whispers I am talking about.
In this society, we want to measure everything. People want to see the the numbers on the scale drop when getting in shape to show they are loosing weight. We want to see A’s on the report card. We wear our Fitbit to track our steps. Shoot, we even measure how effective our teachers supposedly are based on test scores. We measure, measure, measure and we want to see big change fast.
But, I think we should also listen for the whispers, the little things that are immeasurable. I believe paying attention to the subtle, quiet moments matter just as much or MORE.
So whether it’s simply starting with mouth-ing the words or doing the right thing instead of the wrong, we should celebrate moments that aren’t so loud or that you cannot measure or grade. Even as adults, we need to pay attention to the whispers. Many times, those whispers are telling us a lot more than the noise but we have to listen and wait for them. We have to be paying attention. Subtle, quiet, and humble….good things are happening everywhere.