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CONNECTION & GRATITUDE - A celebration in the lingering shade of our global pandemic

By Brie Tompkins, Kindergarten/1st Grade teacher

Who else craves human connection?

Do you also miss hugs and smiles? Can you see the effects of our global pandemic in the eyes of young children? As an adult, Is it possible to feel anxious, patient, and grateful all at the same time? Can you imagine how our children feel?

Under the lingering shade of the pandemic, I’ll share with you how I feel gratitude, connection, and joy at school - how resilient and inspiring the connections are of my young students. As a teacher, these are the moments when I feel most alive.

At this time, my students and I are taking a pause to recognize that our experience of disconnection during the global pandemic has been very real, and that, as a human community, we need to empathize, rebuild, and reconnect.

The truth is, the beautiful children in my class experienced a significant loss in their lives, time they will not recover. While surrounded by the loving support of their families, especially at the beginning of the lockdown, these children lost time building connections with other four and five year olds. These years mark significant milestones in social/emotional development, as children problem-solve with friends, build functional language, and enjoy trying new things. With deepest empathy for my students, I am working to recognize their challenge, and to meet them right where they need to be. The words of artist, designer, and writer, Morgan Harper Nichols, sum up the message I wish to share with my class.

“There are no easy words for this, but there is endless grace; a gentle, loving reminder: it can take time to be okay.”

It can take time to be okay. From behind masks, the photos in this blog are shining examples of the strength of my students’ desire to connect. Let’s celebrate together what I am most grateful for this year.

Connections through Play - My students play intensely. They imagine, design, compare, collaborate, and teach each other through play. Connections spark when children share moments during team-motivated build challenges and when they play games. I am grateful when they share their ideas, talk through disagreements, and offer each other opportunities to fail and try again.

Connection through Art - While making art, I love watching my students connect with their own creativity and with the sense of calm that fills our space.

Connections through Nature - My students team up to take care of their garden. By touching the soil, smelling the sage, collaborating to fill the compost, and noticing tiny creatures, they are drawn together for a common purpose. Desire to protect and nurture the garden allows them to connect with a basic human need.

Connection through Imagination - Story building is so rewarding to watch as students connect to discuss ideas, give and receive feedback, and get creative. By diving into the imaginary, my students are becoming storytellers, comic illustrators, game designers, and entertainers! Stories bring us joy. Superhero stuffies bring us joy too!

Connecting to a Challenge - My students dig into challenges with all of their might. Whether they are solving logic puzzles or designing a die to 3D print for a game, they rise to the challenge with resilience. Through individual lenses, they see challenges as either personal or collective, and they are learning to share their feelings and experiences with consideration for other perspectives around them.

Connection through Books - Every day, we read together - alone, with friends, and as a whole class. We share our interests, compare our lives to the characters in stories, consider the perspectives of others, and apply our skills as readers. Most importantly, connecting to books and through books is a lifelong adventure - a journey worth every moment of our time cultivating.

Connection through Discussion - We take time to share and listen. Anytime we come together to have a discussion, we take a breath and make space for connection. We discuss everything from ways to respect everyone playing a game to strategies that we use to add big numbers. We discuss empathy, kindness, and friendship.

Connecting with Themselves - In the midst of the work we are doing to empathize and build relationships, it is important to take time to connect with ourselves. When do we need alone time? When do we need to rest? When do we need to surround ourselves with support?

As adults, especially during this unusual and challenging time, we can fuel hope in our children through adaptability, empathy, and “endless grace.” We provide the balance they need and the opportunities to store up on some well-deserved connection.

I am grateful for these moments of connection, fulfilled by the courage and resilience of my young students, and alive with the hope that they inspire. Thank you for reading!


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