This book began as a piece of memoir, my legacy as a school psychologist. During my many years of watching teachers read to their students, I noticed that teachers seem to enjoy children’s books as much as children do. I know I do too. So, this children’s book for adults is an experiment.
During the 2007-8 school year, I lived at Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center in PA. During that year, I worked full-time as a school psychologist, taught art in an after-school program as the Social Witness scholar at PH, and lived in the community. While living in the PH community in 1996-8, a huge part of my creativity in me was born. So, that year I spent time in the PH arts studio. One of my projects involved writing a poem and dedicating a poem of good wishes to every student I saw as a psychologist. One purpose of this book is to compile some of those poems and art pieces.
Also, in this book, I write some of what guided me as a school psychologist. During my graduate school years at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, I majored in School Psychology with a specialty area in Early Intervention. During one semester, I had the privilege of taking both a traditional family therapy class as well as a family-oriented class in Early Intervention. The basic difference was that the traditional psychology class focuses most of our attention on pathology and diagnostics. The EI class taught us a strength-based approach that I came to love and which the research is unmistakable in support of young children. My personal belief is that it works best for me and would work for people of all ages. The gist: Assess and build the strengths, then address the problems. Interestingly, I heard the pastor at church last Sunday espousing the same philosophy.
The book starts with a story. I will share a bit of that story with you here. It is about a 3-year-old named Amy. I love 3-year-olds. They taught me to paint, and in this story, you will hear how a young girl taught me how to be in nature, as a nature mystic would love Mother Nature and her offspring.
A few years ago, on a beautiful Kentucky spring day, I went for a walk with a little girl who was three. Her name was Amy. As we walked through the woods together, she ran up to a wildflower. Showing me small details inside the flower, Amy said, “Look, Jenny, look at that!” Then she found a rock. “Oh, Jenny, look at this!” It looked like an ordinary rock to me, but she reveled in its shape and coloring. Then she rand and pointed to a beautifully detailed piece of tree bark. With a tone of hushed awe and wonder, she looked straight into my eyes and whispered, “Oh, Jenny!”
That walk was of the greatest gifts anyone has given me. She taught me to stand in awe of Creation. She taught me to let nature provide me with daily sustenance. Because of that walk with a three-year-old girl, my first utterance of the day is thanks to the trees outside my window and the birds that awaken me with their singing. And because of that walk with a three-year-old girl, I often take walks along a nearby creek and revel in the wonder.
I thank Amy – and all the children in my life, over 40 years as a psychologist – for the many lessons they have taught me.