Magic happens at the end of your comfort zone…


The cold winter day started with Eric* wanting to build a block structure… As he began to build, he showed a desire to make his structure taller and taller adding different blocks in different angles; making it hard for the structure to stay stable. I wanted to support him, and he wanted to continue to add blocks to the top, but I kept suggesting to start another row; so the structure didn’t get too tall, and wouldn’t fall down. Eric however, really wanted to add the blocks on the top. As he did…my heart was beating, I was feeling scared, nervous, as it might fall down and hurt somebody. As I explained this to Eric, Nicole asked “Why can’t he build it on top?” I said, “Because it might fall down.” Nicole suggested, that perhaps we could support the structure in a way that it may keep it from falling down… I said, “for sure, we can try that.”, I told Eric, “Okay, you can build it on top, but you have to be careful as it might fall down and hurt someone.” Eric said, “okay, Areeba…”and continued adding the pieces…but this time there was a clam energy as he placed each piece, as if he was really considering each piece, and thinking how he could place it to keep the tower stable, and considering the impact his movements and each block would have on the future of this tower and the safety of others.

This moment made me realize how open and vulnerable we as educators need to be in order to allow these moments to happen; a magic that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The toddlers understand and can be trusted… They are capable and competent individuals with imaginative minds…our role as educators is to allow them to bring their thinking out and provide them the platform to do that…This moment made me think and realize how we as educators can prevent a child from taking risks, from putting out what they are imagining… And how we try to have them play, “safe..” Sometimes there are limits, but the question now becomes, how can we question and move the limits in a way that considers the safety of all, but also contributes in building children’s sense of self? If Nicole did not come in, and pushed me to think, to consider my words and what they meant, to trust that Eric cares about everyone just as much as we do and that he has the ability to assess risk and know his own limits, then I would have pushed for Eric to “play it safe”. How would his structure look then? Would it still have been his structure or mine? I saw the magic happening as soon as I reminded Eric of the safety of others… He became more cautious, calm and started to feel responsible for not only himself, but others… What did this moment do for Eric? Myself? How did it help us reflect on the image of children and educators? We say, “we need to trust children” but what does that look like in the space?

“Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy.

Without risk, nothing new ever happens.

Without trust, fear creeps in.

Without serendipity, there are no surprises.”

-Rita Gelman

*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identities

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