Written by: Lynne Reside
"Let’s make a dent in the universe" – Steve Jobs
At our first Journal Reflection group, we reflected on Lindsay’s article on children’s sadness. It was a deep and emotional discussion about our discomfort with children’s sadness and tears and our tendency to want to try to fix and divert rather than to open up space for them to grieve. Bronwyn has also talked about emotions and looked at her adult responses in contrast to the children’s responses.
I have been reflecting on joy recently – my own and the joy that children bring to my life. The work of supporting children’s healthy development is not always joyful. During planning for a conference, we discussed a theme about joyfulness and heart in the work of early care and learning. I recently read that children generally laugh about 200 times a day. I saw a video on Facebook of a man on a subway watching something on an iPad that caused him to laugh out loud for an extended period of time. The other people on the subway train were greatly affected by this and as the man continued his hearty, loud laughing, people who had been sitting stone-faced, enduring their daily commute, began to smile, and giggle and chuckle, not even being in on the joke, but impacted by his joyous laughter. According to Deb Curtis, humour helps us to see things from a different perspective, be spontaneous, grasp unconventional ways of thinking, see beyond the surface of things, enjoy and participate in the playful aspects of life, not take ourselves too seriously, build strong relationships, and get along with others. One of my own children was quite morose when he was young. I remember very distinctly being on a camping trip with him when he suddenly seemed to discover the pleasure of telling jokes. For the whole trip, he told woefully awful and unfunny jokes that he continuously made up, and laughed uproariously. The jokes were painful, but his joy in telling them was so contagious. How do we encourage that kind of joy, how do we bring humour and laughter into our programs? How do we create that contagion that laughter brings?
When I had my first job as an early childhood educator, I remember sitting with a child, both of us laughing and being silly, enjoying what we were doing, and thinking - I can’t believe I get paid to do this every day. As my career progressed and I became a lead teacher and supervisor, I often felt a heavy weight of responsibility – making sure I met all their daily developmental needs, following licensing or centre regulations to ensure safety, buzzing about trying to manage the classroom and the staff.
I don’t work with children any more, but I spend a lot of time with my grandson. He is very talkative, full of ideas and with a wide range of expressed emotions including joyfulness. As a grandparent, my perspective has changed. I have learned the lessons of deep listening, of appreciating those moments of pure joy and knowing that those feelings, that shared laughter, of being goofy and spontaneous and playful is of incredible value to his healthy development. Being invited into children’s joy, and bringing joyfulness to our time with children is one of the great gifts we are given and also able to give as educators in relationship with children.
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