Lessons From a Six-Year-Old

I’ve been volunteering with the Summer Reading Program at our local library where I learned some valuable lessons from a six-year-old.

We were writing some stories that needed to include specific words. A young man asked, “How do you spell there?” One of the library staff inquired about what type of ‘there’ he meant. He immediately understood and then wrote the word out for us (he didn’t need our assistance!) T-H-E-R-E, with an arrow after the final E to indicate direction.

He went on to ‘teach’ us about the three spellings of the word, the other two being THEIR and THEY’RE. He used a stick man in place of the I indicating the possessive form of the word THEIR and he put a tiny capital A in the subscript under the apostrophe to indicate where the A was removed in the contraction THEY’RE.

Wow! I know older people, who don’t know the difference between these three homonyms. Not only was I impressed by this young fellow’s grasp of the English language, I was reminded about how adults often interact with youngsters. Had the staff member not really listened, asked him for clarification and allowed him the space to respond, it would have been easy to just tell him what he wanted. Instead, he was able to think through his challenge, come up with his own response, AND teach the adults something in the process!

Where and when do I jump in with answers rather than asking a simple question to invite another to find their own solution? When have I overlooked someone else’s wisdom (even that of a child)? What learning opportunities have I missed when I have been stuck in my old way of doing things? More importantly, how might I approach my interactions in the future? What if I choose to treat my interaction with another person as an opportunity learn? When I do this, I am putting on my ‘curiosity hat’ and setting aside my ‘all-knowing’ perspective. The result is, I am inviting others to share their gifts with me. Wow, thanks kid!

I’m curious about how you’ll approach learning today. Let me know what you decide to do. I’m sure you can teach me a thing or two!

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