7 Rules to Think Like a Farmer
In the below story, I talk about adults’ responsible behaviors toward children and students (if you’re a teacher). Children and students are referenced as crops that need nurturing, which is our duty to them. I share examples from my classroom expereinces as a teacher as well as being a mother.
I work at an Anglo Chinese kindergarten. When the children arrive their classroom, they have to mark their attendance, take off their jackets, place their water bottle on a rack, open their bags, submit their notebooks in a tray, close their bags and put them away in their cubby hole.
Then they can choose a tray of toys to play with before class begins.
Caleb is a smart, adorable three year old K1 student at the kindergarten. He often gets himself into trouble with his teachers for not wearing a jacket when it’s very cold and “all his other classmates are dressed up warm.”
The way the local teachers handle him is by not talking with him, expressing disapproval of his behavior and calling him ‘naughty’. When I noticed how that upset him, I would attend to him. The teachers would ask me not to talk to him.
Ignoring a crying child is not how I handle children.
His teaching assistant has many other students to attend to. So, a crying three year old in the class is a quite a disruption to her routine. The class teacher flys by me indicating something’s up with their tiny “trouble-maker”.
Mind you, barely any of these three-year-old kids are fluent in English. However, I go down to his eye level, give him an assuring hug, wipe his tears, and talk to him calmly. I tell him “They are worried that you’ll catch a cold.”
I don’t expect him to understand my words or reasons why the adults around him were upset with him. My aim is to get him back to the classroom routine as smoothly and safely as possible without ignoring his needs as a three-year old.
Then I check if he is warm enough. He happened to be wearing three layers of warm clothing, and he’s one active energizer bunny. I kiss his head with my masked mouth.
Once he was calm, I distracted him with a toy, motivating him to finish up his ‘routine’. This got things settled. Everyone was happy.
Recently he brought a pack of candies which he wanted to open right upon arriving his classroom. I calmly explained to him that if he opened it right this moment, the packet could potentially end up in the trash. I had three colored pens in my hand. Holding one up I asked him, “What’s color is this pen?” “Red”, he answered correctly. I told him, “Very good”, I offered my approving smiling eyes. “Okay, can you help me open your bag, put your candies back in and get your notebook in the tray?”
I left him with those instructions and made my way to the whiteboard in the classroom to use the colored pens I was holding.
He did as expected and then found me at the whiteboard, still holding his pack of candies. I told him he’d have to put that in his bag. But his eyes told me he didn’t want to. I opened the slit in my pant’s pocket. I told him, “You can put it in my pocket or in your bag,” and he pushed the pack of candies in my pocket!
“Wow”, I thought. “That kid sure trusts me with his candies!”
The teaching assistant thanked me for taking care of him in my own way. With her help I found his bag and quickly slipped the pack of candies back in it. Problem solved.
I trust kids’ smarts. They are super intelligent beings, don’t you think?
How the other kids respond to their environment
The other children watch me showing affection to Caleb. One by one, they started presenting themselves to me with “I want hugs, too” written all over their innocent faces.
“Do you want a hug?”, I ask them as I go down on my knees to meet their eyes. They nod in approval and bring their bodies into my space to hold them in love for a few moments. Then they skip happily back to their activities.
I find time to enjoy the toy cone ice-creams they want to share with me. I take time to stop by and play with blocks and toy transport.
I see myself as a farmer, and these kids as crops. My hugs are like the water that helps them grow into capable healthy humans.
I’ll never forget what a Chinese man in his forties once told me.
I clearly remember the long afternoon coaching workshop I had attended soon after completing the coaching training hours. Attendees at the workshop got paired up. And so my found myself paired up with this Chinese man in his late forties, let’s call him Peter.
One of us was to speak while the other simply listened for 20 minutes, and then we we’re to switch roles. Peter spoke first. And this was one of the first things he told me, “You know, my mother never touched my face like this,” he said as he held the sides of his face in his palms.
Then he went on to tell me how he built an entire business and destroyed it because that was the childhood belief he was living in his adult life. He was in his parents’ eyes “not good enough”.
It’s possible that the kids at my kindergarten are deprived of touch as well. Yesterday, when I visited one of the K2 classes for my morning hellos, one of the girls came up to me and hugged me. She wanted me to acknowledge her new colorful mask that had pretty Chinese New Year designs on a bright orange background. As I held her, I told her, “It’s beautiful. It’s got my all favorite colors.”
As parents and teachers, it is our job to educate and empower our children and students as best as we can. Here are seven rules to think like a farmer.
1. Don’t shout at the crops
Once I was taking a weekly classes at a local primary school. At the beginning of the lesson, one of the teachers opened the door to our classroom, shouted at the kids in Cantonese, and then left.
There was pin drop silence in the room. I didn’t know what that teacher said, but that scene was heartbreaking. I felt so bad for the students that I vowed to not do this to them. They were taking extra English classes with me. Some of them could communicate well, while others struggled so much, they shied away from participating in class. When it came to writing answers in their worksheets, all they did was copy from the student next to them.
I noticed how this one-side “I speak, you listen” authoritarian attitude destroyed students confidence. I decided to speak to them at eye level, kindly and patiently, inviting them to give simple answers that demonstrated their understanding of English. Over time, I paired up the smarter students with the weaker ones.
Over a period of 10 weeks, the weaker students showed increased ability to think for themselves and felt way more confident when giving answers.
2. Don’t blame the crops for not growing fast enough
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” — Alexander Den Heijer
Practicing this is harder in a culture that is on the look out for someone to place blame on. I have seen parents wanting their child to see a psychologist because they think something is ‘wrong’ with their child that needs to be ‘fixed’. If your child is not showing a behavioral mile-stone, it’s okay to get a professional opinion. But if you haven’t:
- spent enough time with your child to get to know them,
- learned how to best communicate with them,
- looked at your own relationship problem patterns,
then it’s quite possible that you are the one who should be seeing the psychologist, not your child.
Nature doesn’t rush, yet everything is accomplished. Explain how this is possible.
3. Don’t uproot crops before they have a chance to grow
Rearing children asks for massive patience. You have to demonstrate that you believe in them. It’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to pass down the criticism you inherited from your parents. It takes much intestinal fortitude to pull the reins on your critical tongue and utter kinder words.
In order to do that, you have to ask yourself if you like or love yourself enough to be patient with yourself. For instance, you don’t push a child to start running when they have only learned to take their first few steps. You don’t give up on yourself if you’ve tried something for the first time and were miserable at it, do you?
4. Choose the best plants for your soil
You can’t change, exchange or give away your children. The least you can do is nurture the best qualities you see in them. And take things from there. This kind of empowering will blow your mind when you see the results — the fruit of your labor.
My 16 year old was recently talking to me about letting go of what happened. His is wise. I have seen demonstrate leadership qualities. Your adult children are your best friends if you care to invest in a healthy relationship with them.
I speak to my child and my students as if they are capable of understanding. I speak to their soul. I recognize the genius that lies within them and allow it to come out. I create a safe environment for them to explore their genius.
5. Irrigate and fertilize
This is simply a continuation of the above. Your unconditional love is like water to your child — irrigation. You conscious behavior and mindful thoughts are fertilizers that help grow your child’s and students’ potential.
Children need to be shown affection and not be deprived of it. I hug my students and acknowledge their performance in class.
6. Remove weeds
Weeds are negative self-beliefs that need to be uprooted as soon as possible. Nip it in the bud, I say. When my child worries about something, I don’t ask him to stop worrying. I ask him what he is worrying about, and what has been the past evidence of his worries manifesting into his life. “Not really,” comes the answer. Then I ask him if worrying makes him think as if he’s “doing something about a concerning matter”, and “whether that’s helped him”.
After a pause he said, “Mmm, nope.” I said, “Okay, then what would you do that could be more helpful to you?”
One of my K3 students hugged me upon arriving school. She said, “When I’m a big girl, I want to be beautiful.” I said, “You’re are beautiful. You are the most beautiful girl in the world.”
7. You can’t control the weather, only be prepared for it
The best way for your crops — your students and children — is to be prepared. You can’t predict what the future looks like. But what is the only thing you can control? What are you doing on your part to help them prepare?
You only have control over yourself, and do what you can to empower and educate your child(ren) and students. Your nurturing their potential will make then competent. Their feeling confident in their abilities will prepare them to face challenges as they come.
Thank you for being here. If you enjoyed the above story, please share your thoughts in the comments. Here’s another story about my little wonders at my kindergarten.
Upcoming stories to look forward to:
3 Leadership Lessons From My Kindergarten
I Lost 8 Hours and 23 Minutes on Instagram This Week
How To Forgive Yourself For Wanting Normal Parents
Is The World Ready For Self-love?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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