Many parents and grandparents are experiencing the same things as our family; end of school activities, recitals, and graduations. In our case, the graduations are from preschool and elementary school. While we sit through countless children singing songs, getting awards, and dressed in their finery for their dance recitals, most of us would willingly admit that all we really care about in the lineups (in our case this year) are our grandchildren. To see our grandchildren for their no more than their two minutes of fame on stage we must endure many more children doing the same thing! These times with our granddaughters (11, 9, and almost 4) take me back to not too many years ago with our two daughters. Those daughters are now 40 and 38. Where did the years go?
I used the word “endure” above, relating to sitting through long ceremonies to get a quick glimpse of our precious angels. And some years it truly has felt like that. But not this year. I saw some different things this year, and had some different insights. And the insights came in the form of children three to five, and their teachers, at the Happy Apple Preschool Academy graduations. Our youngest granddaughter, Virginia, graduated from the Happy Apple 3 year- old classes (she was a red apple and a purple apple!) I was in awe as I watched the two ceremonies and heard the sweet words of affirmation and love spoken by each teacher to each child. I couldn’t help but think how different these experiences are from the experiences of older children. For it is in middle school (and also in elementary school to a degree) that the cliques and the bullying begin, and the teachers have to spend too much time dealing with those issues and have less time to show the love and caring that is so common in preschool. It is also in those years that being different isn’t celebrated as it is at Happy Apple. At Happy Apple each child’s uniqueness was recognized with a medal, accompanied by accolades of how the differences in the children was manifested in numerous ways. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the differences among children aren’t a source of pride to be acknowledged, but a problem to be corrected by conformity. But not at happy Apple! At Happy Apple each child’s uniqueness is celebrated with words describing their uniqueness, and a medal that represents it.
Words used by the teachers to describe the children included kind, fun, helper, confident, fearless, leader, energetic, sweet, a good friend, a good team mate, spirited, loving, and the best buddy. Some of the awards reflected in the medals the children received were Little Miss Sunshine, Blossoming Butterfly, The Most Loving, the best Helper, the Best Teammate, and the Shining Light. I was struck by how many of the words are the very behaviors necessary for good collaboration and effectiveness in the workplace. I couldn’t help but think of the phrase, “plays well with others” as these children were described.
I was struck by the fact that none of the teachers used any negative words to describe the children. And we know they must have witnessed some negative behavior, for after all, these children are human. But the teachers focused on the positive, and accentuated the strengths of the children. You could see the pride in the children as their attributes were mentioned, and as they received their awards. I was mindful of how many times we parents and grandparents do the opposite, in ways that come close to expecting the children to be adults, and to act like such.
Then as adults in the workplace, how often do we hear the affirmations and the praise? Are managers accentuating the positive, or focusing on the problems? I believe that we know the answer to this rhetorical question. And we also know how demotivating focusing on problems is. How I yearn for some happy Apple Teachers in our workplaces around the country!
Back to the children. I doubt that these children will work in places that are negative and punitive; they will take their toys elsewhere. Not just these Happy Apple Children, but this generation. And I see that as positive. They are being raised to expect better. Not to be pampered and indulged, but energized, valued, and appreciated.
And the circle of life continues. Ella Mae Richardson was born today, born into a family that has been like family to me for the past forty-two years. Her grandmother, my dear friend Pam, was in the labor room with me when my daughter Tara, mother of these precious granddaughters of mine, was born. Welcome Ella Mae. We can’t wait to see what words describe your personality!
I want to be more like Happy Apple Teachers. I want to be more positive and affirming, and celebrate the uniqueness of my loved ones, loved ones of all ages.
Thank you to all teachers, for your gift of service and love to our children of all ages. Your dedication is so much appreciated.
And in case you are wondering, one of Virginia’s Happy Apple Academy awards was the Fearless award!