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True listening to children

03/02/2018 12:02:36 PM


Lucy Banerji

Jewish tradition holds that each child is born with infinite potential. Holding this belief dearly, I am disturbed by criticism targeted at the children who raised their voices in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school tragedy. This is a matter of social justice. Too often children are viewed as becoming rather than being. As a result, children have very limited opportunities for meaningful participation in community life. "Don't treat me as a child" means "don't treat me as less than you.” Florida students demonstrated that this cultural discourse can be changed. Survivors of the massacre started a new conversation. Though new conversations can be disorienting, they are cornerstone of social change.
Children are far more competent than most adults imagine. This is true even for very young children. New research in early childhood development and education changed many previous ideas about children. We need to keep up with the science and adapt our views on personal and institutional levels. What we feel about children's abilities and rights affect what we say, what we offer and how we spend our resources. Most importantly, it affects how we listen to the children. 
Children's voices depend on adults' ears. I am blessed to work with colleagues who share this understanding and ready to hear what children have to say. Even the children not using their words must be heard by careful attention to their play or relationships. Children deserve true listening. It means that we have to be willing to learn from them and to be changed by what they say to us.
Lucy Banerji is director of the Temple Shalom Nursery School.

Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780