Seeing the Potential

When we see the potential in another – when we believe that person can accomplish great things – a life is changed forever.

One HYCL Team Member’s Account:

The first week I taught kindergarten in our new community, I was stunned at how little the children knew. Many did not know their own names and answered only to nicknames like “Pookey, Flower, or Sister.” Most children had never been in a classroom setting and many did not have paper, pencils, or a book in their home. So I kept my expectations low and addressed only the basics of the curriculum.

In October, the school held a talent show and we attended the event. When a sixth grader began demonstrating his talent to the song Achey Breaky Heart, by Billy Ray Cyrus, my students came alive. To my shock, in concert with the rest of the assembly, my 27 five-year-olds stomped their feet on the bleachers and sang – all 211 memorized words.

Suddenly, I saw their potential and knew that they were capable of great things. They were full of ability and when we got back to our classroom, I told them so. From that moment on, I expected great things from them. I set lofty goals. They met them. I challenged their analytical skills. They problem-solved with proficiency. I raised the standards higher and they met me at the top. The rest of the year we celebrated their potential, their growth, and their remarkable achievements.

We share this story as a reminder to us all that what we see is not always accurate. Our perception of who a person is can often be skewed by our own vision, or lack thereof. We expect little, so we see little. But when we expect great things, when we truly believe in our children and in each other, we will see remarkable achievement. So let us set our sights high by believing in limitless potential and endless abilities. Let us see what God sees.

The Skill of Classification

One morning I was reading to a group of mature 4 year olds. When I introduced the book title and was explaining its meaning, a hand in the back row shot up.

I called on the young girl and she asked with a worried look, “Is that a GOOD word or a BAD word?” After I explained the definition, gave examples and reassured her that the word was indeed a good one, she relaxed.
She had obviously been instructed in appropriate vocabulary and was developing an organizational system about the word’s proper use. This skill, known as Classification, is predominantly a math skill. We see it in toddlers as they sort blocks by shape or color. And we see it in children as they line up cars according to some common characteristic.

To read more about this skill, “Cultivating an Inclusive Mindset” and “Literacy and Homeschooling FAQ.”

The Fourth Gift

The True Story of a Modern-day Wise Man

During one Christmas season, I met a modern-day wise man. The old man walked into my classroom to thank me for what we would later call “the fourth gift.” On his behalf, I share his message with you now …

The school halls were empty and the janitor was making his final rounds. I was just stacking the last supplies for holiday storage when the classroom door opened. A thin, elderly gentleman stood in the doorway, his white hair and ragged clothes dimmed by the late afternoon shadows. For a moment I thought he belonged down the hall, in the now empty manger scene. When he inched closer I could see his eyes glistening, tears staining his weathered cheeks.

As he extended his hand, he whispered, “Thank you … for teaching my little girl … how to read.” Then he turned and walked away.

I stood and watched his bent frame shuffle down the dimly lit corridor, his foster daughter clinging to his outstretched hand. To this man who could not even pen his own name, the child held a treasure as precious as gold. She could read.

To teachers everywhere … Thank You.

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 although his family and friends called him “Ted.” Educated in literature, his love for drawing led him to an early career creating cartoons and then writing successful advertising campaigns, which became his main source of income.

Twenty years after publishing his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), he published The Cat in the Hat. That book changed his career and the lives of children forever more.

Known for creating over 44 children’s books, Dr. Seuss focused first on teaching children to think. And then to read. Green Eggs and Ham, which uses fewer than 50 different words, is his best-selling title, followed by The Cat in the Hat.

As you enjoy a few of the gifts below that Dr. Seuss left behind, encourage your children to create words and characters of their own. Then read our article entitled The Imagination Station for more information on the value of illustrating.

(Slides Courtesy of Random House 2013)

Reading with Young Children

… “I want my 16 month old daughter to enjoy books but when I try to read to her, she isn’t interested. Is it too early to introduce books?” – Elizabeth

Great question, Elizabeth. We receive a lot of emails about this very issue. As you know, board books with simple pictures are available for children your daughter’s age. They serve well for when she is alone and wants to hold it without tearing the pages. She is learning many pre-reading skills already such as left-to-right progression, where the book title is placed, and that words and illustrations correspond.

When you read with her, however, she may find it more interesting if you choose a book with more detailed illustrations – something with characters she is familiar with or a more intricate plot. You won’t read the story per se, – not word for word – but you will be talking with her about the illustrations and perhaps later on, the story line. Many books labeled for 3 or 4 year-olds will fit this category. When you go to the library, let her pick out the books that interest her. She may be attracted to the picture of an animal, a cartoon character she can identify, or a child in a funny dilemma. Remembering that one of the reading skills an older child learns is how to interpret picture cues (or clues) in order to anticipate what will happen next, learning to pay attention to visual detail now builds an excellent foundation for literacy later.