“Would you please sit next to me tomorrow?”: Integrity & the ‘Checking In’ Mentality at Westmont

Hello and happy Monday! Last week I discussed the importance and unique role of every person in the Westmont community. With this being my last week at Westmont and my second to last blog, I’ve been reflecting on what my own role has been this summer. This summer I’ve acted as a kind of sponge, absorbing the everyday experience of being at Westmont through witnessing the children’s interactions and Westmont’s role in those interactions. Over the summer I usually hear a child or teacher say a particular thing that seems to sum up everything I’ve been unpacking that week. This week, however, I took a closer look at the dialogue that I’d been hearing over the course of the summer and in looking at these conversations, I ended up unpacking the concept of integrity. I’ve noticed that so many conversations between children at Westmont involve checking in on one another. This takes various forms, from one child asking another “Would you please sit next to me tomorrow?” and the other child answering “Yeah!” with a grin, to a child asking a teacher why another child is sad. Just today a child was frustrated because he couldn’t tie his shoe, so he sat down instead of playing. Another child in the room immediately understood that he was upset and asked me why. Once I explained, he got up and started walking around the room to find work that might cheer up his friend until they both ended up playing kitchen together. It got me to thinking that I can’t remember a single time at Westmont when a child has been upset and no other child has expressed concern.

            While this is just one scenario, this ‘checking in’ mentality is evident every single day. When unpacking this mentality, I came up with two main aspects that lead to ‘checking in’: honesty and perspective. Honesty comes first and last in this; it is a central of being a child. All children have a natural proclivity for honesty—honest in the questions they ask and the feelings they express. Honesty alone, however, does not lead to empathy and ‘checking in’. This is where perspective comes in. In order to successfully ‘check in’ with another person—whether they are upset or you want to ask them to sit next you tomorrow—perspective is crucial. At Westmont, children are taught to ‘shift the camera’ in a sense, seeing things from their peers’ perspective. As they are repeatedly encouraged to consider how the other person might feel, this becomes second nature. Therefore, it feels wrong not to ask how a friend is feeling. As a result, through their natural unabashed honesty and understanding of perspective, Westmont children gain a sense of integrity. Looking through the lens of a child seems to unpack even the most overwhelming concepts. I hope to channel the integrity of the children at Westmont when I go back to college in a few weeks, unafraid to check in on the people around me. Have a great week everyone and I’ll see you next week for the last blog!