“Families know their children best and we believe their contributions are essential to their child’s learning and development.” – Parents as Partners is one of seven guiding Pedagogical Themes at Compass Early Learning and Care
In September of 2015 we received news that Garnet, a child with type one diabetes, would be joining our classroom. Neither of us had experience with diabetes and the seriousness of this situation made us wonder, “Can we provide the kind of medical care this child needs and also meet the needs of the other children in our care and their families?” Understanding the importance of building strong relationships with families, it did not take us long to come to the realization that yes, we could. Caring for Garnet has manifested itself as a true gift to our classroom environment.
Garnet and his mom Mandi began visiting in early October. Actually, Mandi sort of “moved in” with us to settle Garnet. She provided training on testing blood sugar levels, administering insulin and on the signs, symptoms and behaviours that should be concerning. It was during this time that we formed a strong relationship with Garnet. We quickly learned that he is a very responsible and mature child with a beautiful soul. We learned what makes him laugh hard, what books he loves to read, and how he likes to have someone familiar and who he trusts close by as he falls asleep.
Once we were confident caring for Garnet’s medical needs within our classroom, Mandi attended a staff meeting and presented a power-point presentation to the entire staff on diabetes and what caring for her son entails. Mandi’s message was clear, “Garnet is a kid first!” Garnet’s parents wanted to make sure that Garnet was just like any other child in our program who loves bikes, art and construction vehicles; he just has some specific medical needs. Mandi closed her portion of our staff meeting with the well-known quote, “It takes a village to raise a child…”, but added, “We are asking you to be our village”. This definitely tugged at our hearts. As educators, we felt further empowered and motivated by the trust Garnet’s family, and all our families, have in us.
Garnet joining our classroom family has enhanced a culture of empathy. Everyone in the junior room became more attentive to the needs of others; compassion is visible throughout our room as children truly take care of one another. Our confidence and competencies have been strengthened through caring for a child with a medical condition that, initially, could make anyone feel nervous, scared or apprehensive. More importantly, it has fueled the children’s inherent desire to care for others.
Caring for Garnet, as well as all of our peers, was not just the educators’ responsibility, but a classroom responsibility. By bringing light to the children’s displays of empathy, we have noticed more displays of kindness, caring, love and respect amongst all the children. These are all honorable traits that will serve the children well now and in the future.
One example of such a display was when Lucy, one of Garnet’s classmates, became visibly upset when we were testing Garnet’s blood sugar. “Needles hurt; please don’t hurt Garnet!” We explained how important the medicine is to Garnet and he even reassured Lucy the needles do not hurt much. Even with his reassurance, Lucy quietly sat herself beside Garnet when she woke before him from their naps and whispered, “I’m waiting for Garnet to wake up. Just in case his finger is sore.”
We have much to learn together with the children, but feel confident we have helped nurture what is most important, being a caring and empathetic person. Looking forward, we become excited and take great comfort knowing that these remarkable children will be the next generation to take care of us and our planet. We think Gary Zukav’s quote says it best:
“We have much to do together, let us do it in wisdom love and joy…let us make this the human experience.”
Kaehly Shanahan RECE and Alison McDonald RECE
Compass ELC Victoria Graduate, Junior Preschool Room
To read previously posted Compass ELC Blogs, please click HERE
To learn more about our Pedagogical Themes, please click HERE