Unfortunately, Joey and I were apart for almost a full month in April because I broke my ankle and couldn’t drive. It was wonderful to finally get back to see him last week. In just a month it seemed that he’d grown multiple inches! I was hoping that we’d easily get right back into our familiar pattern, and I hadn’t planned to do anything different or out of the ordinary during our sessions. I was excited to read Harry the Dirty Dog with him, so I dove right in with my plans.
Joey had other ideas. He wanted to talk. He listed every animal on his device, and then listed them again. He told me about helicopters and airplanes and occasionally let me read a page or two of the book. At one point he used his device to say “stop mouth” which I’m pretty sure was his way of asking me to stop reading so he could talk. That was one of the only phrases he used during that time. What was going on? The last time I’d been there Joey was full of early phrases and was starting to explore pronouns. And now?
We were both frustrated and both of us felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. I had to take a step back and remember that our relationship is more important than the work I’d carefully planned. (Didn’t he realize that Harry is such a fun book?) I’d just brought myself and my show to the table, and I hadn’t left any room for Joey. I think we do this often as teachers, especially at this time of the year when we are feeling the deadlines of the end of the school year approaching. Luckily, I don’t have that worry with Joey, but I think I did want to make up for lost time.
I needed to back up, slow down, and remember the boy in front of me. The smiling four-year-old with so much to say. So I paused, listened, nodded, and tried to acknowledge his list of animals. Once we were connected, we could move forward.
And we did. After re-connecting and taking time to rebuild the relationship, Joey dropped his musical shaker on the floor. He looked at what he’d dropped and then at his device. Carefully he selected different hear and then looked at the other egg shaker sitting on the table. He was asking for other musical instrument – the other instrument he can hear. We were back to meaningful communication with two word phrases.
It’s easy to forget how important our relationships with our kids are, and how much more they are capable of when we are working with them instead of teaching at them.
*On another note, I do not think Joey appreciates Harry the Dirty Dog like I do. Instead we are now reading Groovy Joe, which is a bit faster and more animated.