Working with preschoolers is extremely enjoyable for the majority of us in the field of early childhood education. While many times throughout the day we set limits, negotiate with the children and put out ongoing small fires, we also experience great enjoyment, in its many forms.
Enjoyment is one of the five emotions in Paul Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions that I have been writing about recently. The interactive website further categorizes enjoyment into its many states and moods. Excitement is one of those states included in this Atlas commissioned by the Dalai Lama. Some of the others included are sensory pleasure, compassion, amusement, wonder, rejoicing and naches. When I first read of the last state, I paused. Naches? It sounded like a Yiddish word my Nana used when she was bursting with pride over her grandchildren. Clicking further on the interactive website, I was surprised to see this indeed was the word used by my grandmother.
As a young child, I remember her eyes focused on me, hand over heart, with this look on her face. While I couldn’t identify it, I felt her love. In the present, where I am the grandmother, I understand. Having had the privilege of spending two months with my 17 month old grandchild this summer, I felt this emotion deeply as I marveled at his very being, his every forward step. Some quite literally as he went from taking three wobbly steps to running in a two week period.
As I said goodbye to my beloved grandbaby, I had at hand the antidote for intensive missing. It was to remind myself of the belief that all children are our children, or in my case, grandchildren. We, as teachers, are responsible for children’s well-being which includes their feeling loved while away from their families.
I quote early childhood expert and author, Deb Curtis: “Pause and marvel, watch for the joy.”
Observe the children progress through their developmental tasks, explore materials, form relationships and learn through play. Watch for the joy. It’s contagious. At the start of year 31 of my program, I find watching for their joy to be my favorite part of teaching. It opens my heart to them, connects me and gives me hope.
Watch them in a state of enjoyment called fiero, when they’ve met a challenge and stretched their capabilities. We can support and encourage by our recognition of their accomplishment. We help children to increase these feelings by speaking our appreciation aloud.
Receiving a leg hug, feeling their trust for us can increase our own state of enjoyment. What an honor it is to be able to work and play with these young children.