The Importance of Trust in Early Childhood Development
It’s hard to figure out where to start my story because the question was answered both before and after it was asked. The question itself is a perfect example of how a Little Ripples Teacher Training unfolds. I guess I will begin with the question that came up mid-day, right before we broke for lunch. Mozghan asked, “How do we get the children of other people to trust us?”
At that very moment, Joslyn, an iACT volunteer, mindfulness expert, and Little Ripples trainer, had one child wrapped up in her arms giggling and another with a toy playing quietly beside her. We gently pointed out that these children have only known us for a day and half, and that they listen and respect us even though we don’t speak the same language. It was because we created a safe and fun environment where they could play, laugh, be loud, and be children. It was because when they decided to throw a toy or get upset (when we needed their toy for a demonstration), we gently gave them an alternative. We offered hugs when fists were thrown, songs, and yoga breaths when we changed activities. We were empathetic and allowed the children to make their own choices.
We have four translators and five native languages being spoken: Farsi, Arabic, French, and two dialects of Kurdish, Sorani, and Kurmanji. We have 18 women and men and half as many children under the age of four. This could have been chaos. It sure sounds like a recipe for chaos. To be completely honest, yesterday had some elements of crazy.
As we started the day, I could hear the words that I repeated over and over again yesterday, “The most important responsibilities of Little Ripples teachers are to create a safe environment and to have fun and play, because then learning will happen.” Safe. Fun. Learning. Do this for the women, I thought. Focus on helping them create safety and calmness within themselves and their children in this space. Have fun with them, and then they will learn. (Hopefully!)
We had a training agenda, but as the day unfolded, we chose to let the participants—the adults AND children—lead us. They showed us when to change activities and integrate mindfulness activities. The children were our best teachers today. We were able to demonstrate every single module we wanted to teach with the children in the room. Free play, guided play, empathizing with emotions, redirecting, choosing proximity (like a gentle touch on the back or a hug!), setting routine and expectations, and positive behavior management.
Today was calm and peaceful—in the room and in my heart. By the end of the day, every single person had participated and laughed. The joy was palpable. We created a safe and fun environment for the women and, thus, I’m confident that learning happened.
So I guess, in a roundabout way, I’m trying to say that today I learned how important it is to trust. Trust in the process. Trust in the people. Trust in the children and they will trust in you.
These programs are entirely community-led. They made every decision from which day to run the program to what hours and to who will be on the teaching team each day. The teams are diverse and yet they have committed to working together.
If there is anything that can foster community between people and across cultures, it is sharing a meal and a cup of tea. While we do that, we will also be sure to sprinkle in some early childhood development, mindfulness, and games!
Throughout my time in Nduta, Mandy was my right-hand man, functioning as a patient facilitator, doing his best to accurately translate everything that the Academy coaches wanted to express, and doing it all with positive energy and enthusiasm.