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Educating the Child Socially, featuring Wendy Nelson
September 21, 2020, 9:00 AM

Welcome to Immanuel's blog. This is the second article in our series, “Christ-Centered Education for the Whole Child.” In this installment, we are going to discuss educating the child socially.

I once learned an analogy from an early childhood director at a Lutheran school in Florida, that she would use on preschool curriculum night. Using the big cardboard blocks that children build with, I wrote a different area that I planned to cover within the course of the year on each block. One was phonemic awareness, another block was number awareness, fine motor, spiritual development, etc. I laid them all out, and then I built a pyramid where the next level of blocks were more things you would learn in the primary grades, and then all the way up through eighth grade. Then I demonstrated what happens to the foundation blocks, the preschool blocks, if I would push one through and it would fall out on the other side. What happens to the whole pyramid? 

The social block is important because it's so integrated with all the other areas. If children are faltering in one area or they're just not getting taught those critical social skills, then it's going to be hard to build on those skills as they grow.

Two years ago, I had a boy with fairly severe autism and he had to have his special therapist accompany him in class every day. It was just such a wonderful experience for all of the children within the classroom, because they just loved him so much. He had his little group of followers who always wanted to sit by him. They loved him so much! He was semi-verbal. He had some words and he was still really learning, but the children would pitch in and help him in such an amazing way. To the children, he was no different. He was just one of their friends. They noticed some differences. He had a little device that could help him use words, and they learned very quickly that that was not their toy that they were allowed to play with, even though it was so tempting. They were just so encouraging with him. They'd help him. They'd lead them around the classroom. If they were sitting and coloring with him, they knew his favorite color was yellow and they'd make sure that he had his yellow crayon. 

That is one of those unexpected teachable moments that you don't plan on happening when you go into the classroom, and it grew to something that I wasn't teaching the children. This child was teaching his friends and they were teaching him, and it was just beautiful.

So when I'm thinking about how we have this Christ-centered education for the whole child, I think about that example of my autistic friend that was in our class, and how the children loved on him so much. I think about how that is Christ in them, working through them. That is Christ using them to show his love. And what's so wonderful about it is that the children don't realize what's happening, and my aides and I can just sit back and watch it happening. It just makes our hearts happy and it makes it fulfilling because we know that's the reason why we became teachers in the first place. 

I knew I wanted to be a preschool teacher since around my freshman year in high school. When God placed me at Immanuel in 1998 teaching second grade, it was just the perfect fit after being in college for four years and not having that home congregation and then coming to Immanuel — all the pieces just fell together.

I took some time off to raise my family, and Immanuel just happened to have this position as 4s Preschool Teacher open when I was ready to teach again. It was just like God moving the pieces together in a way that I could have never done on my own. 

There are so many times that we are doing something in the classroom, and I'm moved to tears. And I look at Mrs. McLane, my amazing assistant, and I'll see that she's close to tears. And we just see God working in these children. If it's how they are singing “Jesus Loves Me” in sign language or something else — it's just the small things. We see His presence all the time and it's just wonderful. 

It's been wonderful to share the reasons why I love being a teacher and how I socially educate children within my classroom. Stay tuned for our next blog, when our First Grade Teacher Christine Dail talks about how she educates children emotionally in her classroom.

Wendy Nelson is the Preschool 4s Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School.