Teaching children is an honor. Embedded in teaching is the wonderful opportunity to develop into our best selves. Young children challenge us to learn from those being taught. If we have been conditioned to believe that as adults, we hold the “expert card, “ embracing a learning stance can be daunting, but it’s certainly not impossible. The first step in reciprocal teaching and learning with children is to believe in their individual capacities to learn and teach. The second step might very well be understanding that learning from children is as powerful as teaching them. We as teachers, families and communities must believe in children’s capacity for success and nurture their belief in themselves. It is very important that all children internalize the simple but powerful credo: “I can.” This belief is half the journey. When children believe they are capable, amazing things can happen. An example of the opposite approach is the school-to-prison pipeline, in which students of color have the absolute worst assumed about them at impressionable ages; Are we really surprised that many internalize what we teach them? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Transforming the prison pipeline to a college and career pipeline takes a positive attitude, an optimistic approach and enough humility to transform policy, practice and funding for equitable access.
Imagine if all the children that were written off as “troubled” were treated as having tremendous potential. What if the nation viewed children impacted by poverty as being as equally capable as well off kids? How much better would their futures be? How amazing would it be to know that we all had a hand in cultivating and nurturing their brilliance? Perhaps it starts with believing that they can achieve excellence while building bridges to opportunities to ensure they will. Successfully teaching all of our nation’s children, and learning from them, will reinforce the fact that “we can.”