When I was pregnant, I had frequent nightmares about my babies drowning. And when they were actually born, I was a water nazi! My boys were in swimming lessons at six months old and there was never more than a teacup full of standing water left anywhere in our house.
I owe this paranoia to a tragedy that happened the first year I was teaching at NIST. On the day before school started, the parent of one of the learners in my class came in to tell me that their family was in mourning. Their son, who was two years younger than my Grade 1 student, had recently died. It was an accident at a friend’s swimming pool. The parents thought the son was playing in the house with the other kids. The kids thought he was out on the front balcony with the parents. Instead he was alone in the pool.
Later that year, I contacted the parent again to say we were beginning our safety unit, and one of the issues we’d be discussing was pool safety. I wanted to give her an opportunity to prepare her daughter and ask if she wanted the support of the school guidance counselor.
Instead, she volunteered to come in and talk about what had happened to her family.
I’ll admit, I was nervous. Was this going to be too difficult for my learners or the parent? Would the kids be able to understand? How badly could it backfire on us?
It was amazing to witness the dynamic between my learners and the parent. The kids asked some hard questions in their effort to understand and the parent answered as honestly as she could. The compassion and empathy my learners displayed, plus the courage and willingness of the parent to share, impressed me so deeply. POP!
How much more powerful is learning when it’s authentic?! How much more can we learn when we open our minds and our hearts? My learners were able to really connect to this experience. My role was once again to support, facilitate, mediate and help us all deal with the tension. And once again, I was amazed at what my learners were capable of.