Four Words

Yesterday, I was in a Gr 1 class while students were working on Google Slides. My heart froze when I noticed a young boy standing behind me absolutely sobbing uncontrollably. I caught a few words in between sobs – “blank screen” “my writing” “all gone”…
I followed him over to his work station and saw that the Chromebook was, thankfully, on and working. So, I double-checked my understanding, “You are upset because the screen went black, and now all of your writing has disappeared – is that right?” He nodded, tears streaming down his face.
This scenario always makes my heart sink for the student – there is so little to do to fix a situation like that. However, I figured I might as well start with the one thing I do know – Ctrl+Z. I tried it, and four short words appeared on the screen. I groaned inside at the tragedy of the situation, but turned to him with a hopeful tone, “Is that your writing? Is it all back now?”
With a shaky sigh of relief, he nodded, “Yes, that’s it.” And with the start of a smile he got himself back to work.
Four words. Something I could have typed in 10 seconds. Something that took him 10 minutes to labour over. It is so easy as an adult to dismiss a child’s troubles as “not a big deal”, and there is a time and a place and a way to teach children a bigger perspective, but the reality is that those tedious hangups from our perspective are often the biggest thing going on from a child’s perspective. A casual dismissal on our part can be a significant shutdown in their world.
Speaking life to a child means more than words of praise – it means listening well enough to understand beyond their words why a situation/event/person/problem matters to them, and responding to them in a way that acknowledges their perspective, while guiding them forward in how they manage their response to it.