Who’s watching?

This week in her fascinating post at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.

153

From the moment of birth children are watchers, learning from their observations of the world around them – objects, people, actions, interactions. The adage “Do what I say, not what I do” holds little significance for young children. They may do what you say, but they are more likely to mirror what you do. For this reason, it is important to model the behaviours you wish children to emulate; for example, kindness, patience, empathy, truthfulness, tolerance, understanding. You need to be the type of human being you wish them to be. Example is a powerful teacher.

Dorothy Law Nolte summed it up in her poem Children Learn What They Live.

Watching is also important to teachers, especially early childhood teachers who spend a lot of time observing children to discover more about their learning needs. Learning in this sense is not confined to the academic. It involves regard for the whole person, especially social-emotional development. So much of what we learn about getting along with others is learned in the early years. While the teachers are watching the children, the children are watching them.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

But children’s observations are not confined to the home or classroom. They are constantly watching the behaviour of others, learning about interactions and what is, and is not, acceptable. The responsibility for developing the kind of world citizens we want lies not solely with parents and teachers. We must all be mindful of the influence our actions may have upon the expanding world knowledge of those around us. That’s not to say we should be perfect. (Thank goodness, or I’d have been shot long ago!) We just need to be aware that little eyes (and big eyes) are watching and learning.

The way new situations are approached can vary according to personality as much as to the behaviour that has been observed in similar circumstances. Sometimes the expectation seems to be that, if children are put with a whole bunch of other kids their age, they will make friends easily. But that is no more likely than if a bunch of people my age were thrown together. Some of us are outgoing and feel comfortable talking with unknown others. Some like to observe for a while to determine an approach with which we may feel more comfortable.  Some require support to venture into unknown territory.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have written about a little one, hurt in the past and now facing a new situation, hesitant to make the first move. When children are taught to be accepting of and friendly towards others, reluctance can turn into confidence. I hope it works.

Friends

He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

43 thoughts on “Who’s watching?

  1. Bec Colvin

    What a great post (and what a late comment!), Nor! Thanks for sharing. Your FF is really moving, too. I love your stories about children being accepting, they are so touching. I am lucky to have had a good role model to watch and learn from!

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    OH, yes. The old “do as I say…” Children are such watchers. The ultimate watchers. You are so right: “They may do what you say, but they are more likely to mirror what you do.” We NEED to be good role models but, alas, being human, aren’t always the perfect role model. And, yes, same with teachers. They’re watching their class but the class is watching them. I’ve been there. Parenting and teaching.

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    1. Norah Post author

      You and me both. There is a mixture of cruel and kind in both sets of eyes, but hopefully more kind than cruel. Yeah, none of us are perfect. I’m as far from that as you can get – just ask my children! 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          I know what you mean about guilt, but we have to ditch it. We’re not perfect. We do our best, and that’s that. Can’t do more than that. I am certain that you are amazing in both roles, better than most; though we don’t need to go into comparison mode. 🙂

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  3. julespaige

    This reminds me of when I taught in a nursery school situation – maybe a pre-kindergarten class.
    And the strange name that on child had… And my advice to another child that maybe his name was strange to the other child. The child nodded and went over to his new classmate.

    Children a great watchers and they mimic adults. If adults are wary, cautious and outwardly prejudice children all to quickly become the same (only littler).

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  4. Sherri

    Hello dear Norah, oh how glad I am to be here again, reading your wonderful post. So sorry I’ve missed a few, but we both know and understand and so I won’t belabour the point. What I do want to say is how every time I read your posts, your messages about childhood development strike me deeply as I nod furiously in agreement with everything. I have always held fast to the belief that children watch our every move, that they don’t miss a trick. We can’t expect them to do as we say if we don’t emulate the very characterists and behaviours we want to teach them. It is futile. And your excellent point of putting a child in with another group expecting them to instantly make friends is so important. As you say, how can expect them to do that, anymore than with a group of adults, all with different personality types and ways of socialising? Your delightful and poignant flash reminds me very much of my eldest son. He is outgoing, never had trouble making friends, yet as a toddler, he was just like little Amir, observing from the sidelines, taking everything in, doing things as he felt comfortable. My middle boy just dived right in, creating havoc lol!! And my youngest, well…therein lies a whole other comment/post (as is the length of my comments sometimes, sorry about that, but that’s the effect your posts have on me!) as to the way social engagement is interpretated for a child with Asperger’s. Always such a pleasure to read you my friend, I do hope things are going will for you and your new business, and also I wanted to say what a beautiful gift your students gave you. You are that teacher! SMAG my friend! Have a wonderful weekend and see you soon 🙂 ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      It’s so wonderful to see you here again, Sherri. I’ve missed you and your thoughtful responses full of wisdom and experience. I hope it means you’ve been able to come up for a breath of air and that things are progressing for you.
      It is interesting to watch the way different children respond in various situations. Are we more accepting of the differences in children than in adults? Sometimes I think we are. Sometimes I think not. I’m sure you would have much to tell about your daughter and social situations.
      I aspire/d to be that teacher Sherri. I hope I was moving towards it. Thank you for your wonderful support. Enjoy your weekend, too. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Ahh…thank you Norah, you are very kind, especially as I often think I could do with a lot more wisdom! Wonderful to see you again too, I always take away so much from your posts and miss visiting as much as I would like. I managed to get ahead with some revisions last week and took some blogging time out, but this week I need to hit them hard again. I will try to visit the Ranch tomorrow and hopefully see you there too. I know you were/are that teacher Norah, from all you share here with us now, and the person I know you to be through your wonderful writing 🙂 Have a good week my friend and we’ll catch up again very soon (lovely to see you over at the Summerhouse too, made my day!) Big hugs and plenty of SMAG in the meantime! 🙂 ❤ xxx

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        1. Norah Post author

          Hi Sherri, I’m pleased you got ahead with your revisions and had a bit of a break. I hope they are responding just the way you want this week. Maybe you shouldn’t hit them too hard. You know what they say about smacking. It’s a bit frowned upon these days. 🙂 I do hope it’s coming along nicely and that I get to read it soon.
          Best of SMAG wishes. Look after yourself and your “baby”. xo

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          1. Sherri

            Haha…thanks Norah, I will do well to heed your good advice…for myself and baby! 🙂 Getting there…one step, or one word I should say, at a time! Hope your week goes well too…and see you soon! xoxo

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  5. Hugh's Views and News

    This is like that ‘New kid on the block’ moment, Norah. Fortunately, I never moved house while at school, but I can image it must be such a daunting position to be in for young children. The same can happen to us adults. In my last job, I was one of a few ambassadors who always ensured new staff were made to feel welcome and were introduced to other staff, taken for a cup of coffee, shown with everything was, etc. Sounds like the little girl in your story has that position already worked out.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m impressed that in your last job there were designated ambassadors to ensure new staff were made welcome. It was never designated where I worked, but (against my introvert nature) I always took it upon myself to do so because I knew how difficult it was to try to enter an established group. There was a little bit of me in each of the characters in my story. 🙂

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  6. Pingback: Watchers « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. Charli Mills

    Children are such watchers! I remember my eldest and how fascinated I was by her alertness. What you say about children watching is in part why I cringe at what is happening in the US. People thought we needed to do away with “political correctness.” It feels more like we threw away civility. And the children are watching. What will they make of this?

    Your flash carries the message about children watching and deciding how to join in. Picking up on social cues is learned, but this child seems overly wary. He needed the help of a first friend. If only we could each do that.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Interesting point about political correctness and civility, Charli. We seem to swing from side to side. Hopefully we’ll settle on kindness in the middle soon.
      If only we could all have a friend like that, how more enjoyable life would be. The little girl could be you at the Carrot Ranch, reaching out to welcome and include the writers. 🙂

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  8. roughwighting

    With six young grandchildren I have been watching a lot of watching, and it’s fascinating. You hit the nail on the head. The young learn from their elders. Our actions are even more important than our words. And you show that excellently in your 99 word story.

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  9. Kate

    Norah, I love the way you always connect teaching with whatever the prompt Charli provides. I will add, that “You need to be the type of human being you wish them to be. Example is a powerful teacher,” goes beyond mere parenthood and teachers. It’s a powerful message. “Lead by example,” and “Walk the talk” are familiar leadership phrases in the corporate world. I believe how we dress, what we do and how we do it and what we say are noticed by more people than we think. We all people watch…and it would be naïve of us to think they didn’t do the same back. Great message Norah.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your support and adding your wisdom to the conversation, Kate. It is very true that we all learn by watching, and that “Leading by example” is just as important in the corporate world, and in fact any role on a team or in a management position. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  10. Steven

    I think you have captured the moment very nicely. I find it somewhat amusing that even though he gave no indication, she completely ignored this and pulled him into the action. It is almost as though you have one character as an introvert and the other as an extrovert.

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  11. Annecdotist

    I love watching babies at around 10 months when they’re sitting up like little Buddhas watching the world around them but still too young to speak. So much going on in their heads! And I agree that we are all responsible for setting a good example to children, although we don’t always manage it.
    That’s a lovely upbeat flash – I imagine that little girl had been shown a lot of kindness herself so she had no hesitation in sharing that with another child. And I’m sure an inspiring teacher to help create an atmosphere where all feel welcomed.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. That’s a great description of children sitting up “like little Buddhas”. It makes me smile. I appreciate your words about my flash. I love seeing children go out of their way to be inclusive. It warms my heart.

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