“Get down on the ground with them, and get those eyes in focus.” My husband is a much better photographer than I am, but I do try to remember this advice when taking pictures of children. At Deer Ridge Elementary School, the teachers reminded me that this photography advice is also applicable to our daily lives as educators.
The “get down on their level” thought occurred to me at the beginning of the day when I delivered my “celebration brownies” to the teachers’ workroom on the second floor. As I trudged up the steps, I thought about exhausted teachers making that climb every day just to get to lunch. The teachers, forever focused on the positive, just giggled when I commented on this irony and claimed they liked the exercise. While I was arranging the brownies, the bell rang, so I went out on the balcony and enjoyed a “view from above.” As I watched the children enter in an orderly fashion, everything from this perspective appeared quiet, simple, and neat. I knew, however, that I wasn’t doing any good perched high above the students. So I did what the teachers at Deer Ridge do every day; I descended the steps determined to make a difference.
From the moment I arrived on the “ground floor,” I knew Deer Ridge was a place where educators remember to focus on the eyes of their students. Teachers dedicated to meeting individual needs demonstrated their ability to make every child feel valued. One thing I miss about being in my own classroom this year is the opportunity to work with students I know well on an individual basis. A kindergarten teacher seemed to sense my longing to make an individual connection, so she sent Aidan over to get the rocks he earned for his good behavior. As I bent down on Aidan’s level, looked into his eyes, and listened to the pride in his voice, I thought, “this is what I need to remember to do every day in my own classroom.” Yes, Aidan, you rock, and so do your teachers at Deer Ridge because they reminded me to focus on your eyes. Thank you, Deer Ridge staff, for descending the steps every day to make a difference. Today, I celebrate you.