Dirty hands signal a measure of trusting relationship

It would be hard to overstate the pleasure we take in seeing kids get their hands dirty, which is not remotely to say that we make a big deal about anyone’s reluctance to dig in. So, a big thanks to Michele Patka, visual arts teacher at Stephen and Harriett Myers Middle School, for capturing dirty hands in all their glory at our Garden Club on Tuesday. We started seeds indoors for plants that will eventually move outside. The growing season in Albany just isn’t long enough for many things we grow without an indoor head start. Activity on Tuesday focused on pansies and onions. And there will be much more in the weeks ahead.

And why do we take such pleasure in the simple act of getting hands dirty, especially when it follows initial reluctance? It appears to reflect an embrace of the moment, surprises, and doing and touching and tasting and experiencing. And such an embrace is most definitely a positive development in the student who is not eager for all of that when we first meet. We would take it as a small sign that we have earned a student’s trust. And that opens the door for still more healthy risk taking.

So, not only is it great to see kids get their hands dirty. We would encourage educators everywhere to consider how important it is to build trusting relationships, rather than assume kids accept whatever we offer without question. And look for a small measure of progress in building that trust, like whether kids say “okay” when adults suggest that digging in will produce a richer experience.

–Bill Stoneman

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