Thursday, February 14, 2019

You Get Out Of It What You Put Into It

I want our school to be a warm and welcoming place for both the children and their parents, so I strive to behave in a warm and welcoming way. I hope every preschool teacher does. We do it because we know that our classrooms will never feel warm and welcoming if we, the teachers, don't give out that it is. Teachers who behave in a cold and grudging way will never create a warm and welcoming environment. It's all quite obvious.

We also know that if we are warm and welcoming, most of our students and parents will strive to return the feeling, at least eventually. That's the way it usually works with the other humans and when it doesn't we grow concerned for them, asking about their home life, recent events, behavior in other circumstances, trying to understand why our warmth and welcome are not being returned. It's odd to us because most people most of the time will come, in their own way, to reflect our attitudes back to us. It works with cold and grudging even better than it does with warm and welcoming.

In other words, you get out of it what you put into it, which is one of the great truths, although it's a tenant more commonly applied to the fruits of hard work. That's what they tell college freshmen for instance. We talk about it around the Woodland Park Cooperative School in a different vein, especially when it comes time for parents to volunteer for their "jobs" for the year. It's a way to encourage fence sitters to make a bigger commitment than they were originally inclined. And as a sales pitch it has the virtue of being true: you really do get out of it what you put into it. I've experienced and seen it for over two decades now.

Living in the heart of a big city isn't for everyone, but my family has chosen it. Cities have a reputation for being cold, anonymous places, full of people going about their lives behind earbuds, smartphone screens, and brisk, purposeful gaits. And it is that way when that's what we're putting into it. Indeed, there are times when I want to be left alone with my thoughts in a crowd, but I've found that if I don't want it to be that way, if I want it, say, to be warm and welcoming, I can make that happen by, obviously, being warm and welcoming: smiling at people, nodding, making eye contact, holding doors. The big, cold, anonymous city becomes a small town because people are people. You get out of it what you put into it.

It doesn't always work the way we want it to. We don't always get what we want. Some of us are born with disadvantages. Some of us are hated for who we are. And sometimes we can't help what we're putting into it: we're too sad or too afraid or too oppressed or just too weary. That's why we need the other people. Maybe it doesn't take a whole school or village or city to start being warm and welcoming; maybe it just takes a few people to get things going, just getting out of it what they're putting into it. Today I can be one of those people.

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