“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. As we grow into leaders who are passionate and care about making the world better, we are equipped with skills and knowledge, filled with curiosity. And we know that even when we face challenges we will achieve.”
Many of the young bright faces that recite this statement do so out of habit and memorization. But when we really dissect the meaning behind these words, we can see how much meaning they truly hold.
In these last few months as a Student Support Assistant, I have been reminded daily of the importance of viewing the child as a product of something larger. Of constantly reminding myself to be aware of the “shoulders they stand on”. By viewing the child’s life in a holistic way rather than in isolation, we can support the child in a more comprehensive and productive way.
These puzzles are not easy to put together. Often, we have limited interactions with our students, and often when they are escalated or need extra support. We don’t go home with them, we don’t see what they ate for breakfast, we don’t know their brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles, mothers or fathers, grandfathers or grandmothers, neighbors or community members. We don’t always have an obvious opportunity to get a holistic picture of the child’s life. Instead, we must be creative in how we connect and are open and receptive to understanding the child and the world that exists around them.
In this work, I am constantly reminding myself to remember that our students “stand on the shoulders of those who came before us”. For better or for worse, life experience is generational and greatly affected by those who raise us. Children are so often a product of their circumstances, both explicitly and implicitly. It is our job to spend the time and effort to orient ourselves with those shoulders they stand on. Considering and respecting the backgrounds, cultures, messages and life experiences they come from, and best incorporating our understanding of that into our work.
Ultimately, we will never fully be able to import ourselves into the minds and lives of our kiddos. This work requires constant humility, self reflection, emotional curiosity and receptiveness. But by staying curious and open to learning about the shoulders on which these children stand, we can hopefully uplift and elevate them to their highest potential.