She was standing by the slide. She put one foot on the rim of the slide and then the other, taking care to balance so that she wouldn’t fall. Then she looked at me.
“I see you balancing,” I said.
She hopped down onto the slide, and then put her feet up on the next rim. And then looked at me again.
“I saw you hop down. And I see you balancing again,” I said.
She hopped down onto the second slide, and then put her feet on the final ledge. After a second of balancing, she jumped down onto the ground and then looked at me.
“I saw you jump down,” I said. “That was a big jump.”
She ran around the slide and climbed up on the rim again. She kept looking at me when she repeated an action and I kept telling her what I saw. At one point a boy tried to join in her game. “Let’s do this!” he said. “No,” she said. “I’m hopscotching.” I took note of her verbiage and used it the next time she looked at me. “That was a big hopscotch!”I said when she jumped down.
There was an amazing thing happening as I continued telling the girl what I saw her doing. She smiled and she seemed to become more confident in her actions. She also became more careful in her actions, as she discovered that the boots that she was wearing were slippery against the surface of the slide. Each time she slipped I noted that action as well, highlighting in my own way her need to be careful. I kept noting and acknowledging her actions for about ten minutes, until she became tired of the game.
Later in the day I noticed her acting more open towards me. She has always acted shy around me, and sometimes has actively ignored me in favor of other teachers in the room. It has been hard to develop a relationship with her because she has been so cautious towards me that it almost comes across as hostility. But after I actively noticed what she was doing and acknowledged her actions for an extended period of time, the cautiousness seemed to start to melt away. She started talking to me more, and when she looked at me a light danced in her eyes that I hadn’t seen when she looked at me before.
Sometimes all it takes to develop a relationship is to notice what the other person is doing and acknowledge it. It is almost like a support that the other person can use to grow and expand. And it lets them know that you see them. Sometimes that is all that children need – to know that you see them.