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Focusing in School: Honoring the Children, Not the Work

by Diane Liljestrand

I work as a paraprofessional in the school systems. The first two years I was an aide in the back of a class room. I had the opportunity to respond to journals written by fourth grade students. I would try to acknowledge where the student was coming from in a Focusing way, to honor what they wrote. It must have been very beneficial for the students because they would tell me more, and many would seek me out as a friend. They would trust me because it was their material that got the attention. They would be honored because my views would not be in the picture.

The journals were a direct link to my next job. They wanted a school tutor and the teacher I worked with recommended me for the job. During my time as school tutor (6 years), grades K-5, I would take kids out of the classroom. I would have groups of children or work with only one student. Some children would come into my room frustrated, angry, or just simply not understanding what they were supposed to do. An angry or frustrated child would be met with: “You are more important than this work.” (I said this a lot.) At which point, the books would be closed and pushed away from the child, and I would say “Take a few minutes now and pay attention to what you are feeling. Let me know when you are ready to work.” The results were amazing.

For the last year I have been placed in a Multi Handicap Room and here again honoring where a child is coming from, even not understanding it (which isn’t really important), would allow more results. In the case of Multi Handicap, remember children’s attention spans are one to three minutes. So if I can expand the work time to two minutes instead of one, just think of the results over a year, two years and so on.

As educators I feel we need to start honoring the student’s achievements rather than our expectations. Also unless we as people honor our own, it’s difficult to honor someone else’s. I have been Focusing for many years, with a group that meets once a week. We find it very helpful in managing our own emotions. I believe it is a place where we can go to be more in tune to God. It’s a place where He can show us where we are and what is really going on with us, thus teaching us to pay attention to that rather than reacting in an unhealthy way.

I’ve found that children are easier focusers because they haven’t buried deeply what is really going on. I have a great love for children and an even greater challenge to protect the child so he or she may grow up honoring that child as an adult. ‘

Diane Liljestrand miay be reached 2608 Shore Drive, Marinette WI 54143.