Not having a grandchild of my own (yet), I have fallen in love with the 9-month old baby boy who lives next door. I have listened carefully to friends who are grandmothers and dote on their grandchildren and often wondered if I’d feel the same way about my own.
Because it’s impossible to complete that thought without an actual grandchild, I have been observing my feelings about a baby who is not a blood relative. I have been rather surprised by my response.
To begin with, this is not just any 9-month old. This little boy was born with tons of personality that became evident even before 6 months of age. He has always been very responsive and ready with a smile when he recognizes you. Then he really, really looks at you in a way that reveals he is interested in some form of engagement with you.
I had not seen much of him for a couple of months, so when I recently saw him I was amazed at his development. He was sitting up perfectly, watching everything going on around him, crawling, and playing with all kinds of objects. He was even very communicative, pursing his lips to make sounds that I swear sound like “dog,” a word I jokingly tried to teach him recently. He babbles intensively when he is engrossed in something, or when he wants to communicate with whomever is playing with him.
The thing that amazes me most of all, however, is how he observes someone doing something, then tries to imitate the behavior. I had been bringing the tip of my nose to the tip of his and saying “boop” on contact. His eyes would light up and he would laugh whenever I did that to him, so I would do it several times in a row. Now, whenever I see him, he leans his head toward me to indicate he wants to “touch noses.” He has already learned to associate me with this behavior.
Another small trick I taught him was to use a wooden spoon to bang on the floor or table. He caught on quickly and now a wooden spoon is one of his favorite objects, his mother tells me. The family has a dog that he obviously watches carefully, because his mother also tells me that it is a constant battle to try to keep him from crawling to the dog’s bowl to drink from it! Just the other day we invited him and his mother for a swim in our pool. She had to take him out of his “floating device” because he kept trying to put his face in the water to drink like his dog.
These may seem like small things that are probably familiar to all the grandparents out there reading this, but they have got me thinking. I have been astounded at how quickly a baby picks up on the behaviors of those around him (including a dog) and tries to imitate them. I am in awe of both the intelligence of babies and the importance of being hyper-aware of how we behave around kids because they are so tuned into everything that we do.
After reading lots and lots of posts here on TWT about getting one’s classroom ready for school, creating a welcoming environment for students, providing the necessary resources for learning, and having/or not having a behavior plan in place, I have one more suggestion to add.
As educators, we must always remember to be mindful of our own behaviors/attitudes. Kids are really smart and they are always watching and listening. They pick up on things we aren’t even aware of and often add what they see to their memory bank. They are a “blank slate” on which anything can leave an impression, even at 6 months of age. Watching the development of my tiny next-door neighbor has made me realize that probably the most important thing teachers can do to prepare for the new school year is to try to be mindful of what a significant impact their own behaviors and attitudes will have on their very impressionable students. We must try not to be a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of teacher.
I wish all of you who are back in the classroom a wonderful year being the best role model you can be for your students. Meanwhile, I’ll just continue to play with my new, little neighbor while enjoying his growth and learning as much as I can from him!