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All day long at school, children are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. We have the tremendous responsibility of cultivating creative, competent, and confident citizens of the world. Yet essentially we offer them little to no opportunities to think freely and make their own decisions. Even during their precious, well-deserved, much-needed recess we often try to micro-manage their time. 

I worked with a student who preferred to stay inside to use a computer during recess. This child was introverted and needed that recess window to recharge, and staying inside and using the computer was just the recipe he needed. But his teacher told him over and over that he should be going outside and playing, and that he needed to exercise and socialize. Although she was trying to “fix” what she saw as a problem, what we really have here is an adult pushing an agenda on a child who KNEW what he needed. He understandably felt frustrated and somewhat embarrassed that perhaps he should be doing things another way. This situation represents a common and tragically missed opportunity. This child had an insight and awareness about his needs that extended far beyond his years. We could have applauded him for knowing what he needed and for meeting that need, despite pressure from peers and adults. Instead he was encouraged to go out to play enough times that he eventually conceded and spent his recess walking alone around the black top and the field. Not a great “fix” after all.

We push our agendas on students all day long and we feel massively frustrated when they do not meet all of our demands. Listen. Listen to what students show you and tell you about what they need. Listening – not “fixing” – is the best way to serve them. 

We work with children; we don’t fix problems. It seems so natural to people-please and try to “fix.” And then when we don’t “fix” the problem, we beat up on ourselves for failing. We are not in the business of fixing (although people will try to convince you otherwise). So what does our job entail, especially during those moments when we are called into a chaotic situation and things feel out of control? I believe our job is to stay as calm and centered as possible, maintain safety as much as we are able, and serve as a model for all of how to weather the storm. 

Then later, when things aren’t quite so chaotic, you can revisit and reflect on the chaos and crises of the day.  From there we can consult, make plans, and try to improve the situation and possibly develop interventions. But in those crushing, chaotic moments, try your very best to remember that you are not there to “fix.”  

Kids aren’t problems to be fixed.