For two special weeks last year, I soaked up all things infant, toddler and RIE® at a RIE ® foundations course, masterfully guided by the inspiring Polly Elam.
As my lovely colleague and I excitedly prepare to share the RIE ® approach with educators, the words "slow down" have been echoing in our heads. "What would Polly say?" we ask each other. More often than not, imaginary Polly replies: "slow down."
We even promised to poke each other in our first workshop if we went too fast. (We did go too fast - we went so fast we even forgot to poke).
Why is slowing down important? At the completion of our course, before we were sent back into the big wide world from our cosy RIE ® cocoon, when we were asked to document a reflection of our experience I chose to focus on slowing down. Here is some of what I wrote:
Slow Down, We Move Too Fast: Reflections from the RIE ® Foundations Course
Slow down Jenny. Slow down, and then slow down some more. Polly has spent the past two weeks reminding us all to slow down. These two simple words have wide reaching implications for the way we create programs and environments for young children; how we structure our days; how we interact with children and in turn, the impact we have on the lives of children and their families.
Slow down: these two simple words will be the key to successfully and respectfully sharing the RIE ® approach with other educators.
Slow down: these two simple words remind me to be curiously open to what others are showing us. Slowing down lets me become aware, receptive and responsive to another’s feelings, wants, needs and abilities.
Slow down: these two simple words help us to become keen observers. When we hold back that often irresistible urge to intervene and teach, we can instead watch and marvel as nature’s plan unfold, naturally.
Slow down: these two simple words remind me to value the moments and find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Slow down: these two simple words allow me to acknowledge a child’s feelings and to work through my own emotional discomfort when they are upset. Slowing down allows me to gently intervene only when children hurt each other or are in danger of hurting themselves.
Slow down: these two simple words remind me what a difference gentle hands, a gentle voice and a calm environment can make to a child’s well being and development.
Slow down: these two simple words encourage me to wait a few moments to let an infant take in what I've said. In doing so I can begin to recognize and sensitively respond to an infant’s cues and allow the infant to become my partner in the dance that is human relationships and communication.
Slow down: two simple words, but ones that allow me to give my full attention to young children and
send the message that “You are important to me.”
Slow down: these two simple words remind me to make available large periods of unhurried, free play time for infants and toddlers to explore and begin to make sense of their world.
Early childhood is a fleeting. It is a time where children's brains and bodies are developing at a mind boggling pace.
At the same time, in today's society our children are increasingly over-scheduled. There is not only a rush to get them from language classes to music classes, but also an urgency to prepare them for the next big thing. Early childhood settings have school readiness programs. The push down effect of an academic curriculum can be seen even in nursery rooms, which can resemble a watered down version of the preschool room.
In times like these, could there be a more important message than the two simple words: slow down?
As Magda Gerber said: “Do less. Observe more. Enjoy more.”