What Do I See?

by Arlene Birt


“It seems like no one cares about me!  No one wants to play with me.”  This was the perception Brenda shared.  I assured her that we do care about her, and tried to gently help her to see that if she is being mean to other children they are timid about playing with her.

What do I see when I look at Brenda?  Do I see only the child who is yelling at other children for doing the same thing she just did?  Do I see a child who is sabotaging my carefully planned lesson by shouting, complaining, calling me names, and being unkind?  When I look at Steve, do I see a child who frustrates me because I don’t know how to get him to pay attention to directions, and now he has just chopped off chunks of his poster because he glued it all up yesterday?  What do I see when I look at Carol?  Do I see only a bossy child who is annoying to the other children and requiring extra time from me?

If this student would ask me, “What do you see what you look at me?” would I see a child with great potential?  Can I look at Brenda and think, “Yes, this is Brenda who has ADHD?”  Or, “This is Mike who has a learning disability.”  I want to see my students as people, not as the challenge they are(whatever it may be).  Here is Steve, a sweet little boy who seems to have some kind of attention deficit.  This is Carol – she needs some help with executive functions.

I want to look at the students and see children with great potential, and determine how I can reach them and how to motivate and encourage them.  How can I do my best to meet their needs and shepherd them in the nine months that I have them in class?  Can I look past the bossy child and see a child who needs guidance in developing leadership skills and may be feeling insecure inside?  Can I see Brenda as a child loved by God and precious to her parents, and see her attention-seeking behavior as a cry for help?  Can I find ways to give her positive attention and model good responses to others?  Can I keep up my patience with Steve as I direct him another time (or three or four times!) in what he should be doing, and break down the directions step by step for him?

I recently read the children’s book What Do You See When You See Me?  about a young girl, Katrina, who visits her grandma at the nursing home and is scared of Agnes, a grouchy elderly woman there.  After Agnes gets Katrina’s attention and talks with her, sharing about her life, Katrina discovers that the woman is not really so grouchy, but is lonely and seeking love.  “Yes, Agnes said, “but I’m invisible to you.  Just a useless old woman in a nursing home.” Katrina realizes that this woman is a real person, too, and feels compassion for this cranky lady, becoming her friend.  At the end of the book, Katrina looks into Agnes’ eyes and states, “When I look at you, I see a new friend.  And she’s beautiful to me.” *

As Katrina gets a fresh perspective on Agnes, I want to find a new outlook for my students.  I can pray for wisdom, compassion, understanding, love, and care as I work with each child.  I will look at them with new eyes and see past the annoying behaviors or unkind words, and see a child in need of my guidance and teaching and show them Jesus’ love in my interactions and work.

*Taylor, What do you see when you see me?  Cook Communications Ministries, 2002.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt

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