I’ve met two kinds of professionals in Early Childhood Education – those who know of and are inspired by Bev Bos, and those who’ve never heard of her. It seems difficult to find anyone who’s encountered Bev in some way and, still, walked away unchanged. Bev passed away on February 4, 2016, but her impact will continue for many years.
I didn’t know Bev. For more details on her from those who did, I suggest you check out a GoFundMe page that’s been set up by her family for her memorial. You could also Google her name and find a host of video interviews, lectures and articles by and about her. What I do know about Bev is how she’s impacted me in my work with young children.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Bev was the “Why not?” philosophy. I can’t say that I remember her using those words, but I was challenged by the creative ways through which she engaged children as learners and explorers. Whether it was allowing children to paint playground structures or sort nails, I found myself questioning my self-imposed rules and limits on the classroom. Now, I didn’t let my children paint playground structures or sort nails, but I started giving more time and energy to thinking about how I could allow children to have more varied experiences.
Bev was known for saying “If it hasn’t been in the hand and the body…it can’t be in the brain.” If I, truly, wanted my children to learn and grow, I needed to challenge myself on how could I safely and wisely expand my personal rules so that could happen? “Why not?” was the question that helped me get past my discomfort and blind spots related to room arrangement, scheduling, materials, interactions, family engagement and more.
Another lesson that Bev reinforced in my life was the importance of healthy praise and affirmation. As I remember it, Bev was discussing a situation about a child’s art. When asked if she liked the art, Bev talked about the importance of not needing to like it. There is a difference between creating for the sake of play and being creative versus creating for the sake of impressing someone and being affirmed. My takeaway was this: affirmation is important, but let’s affirm our care for and appreciation of a child and not what they can do to impress us. Moreover, let’s make our affirmation and praise specific to the things we want to see more of – things like effort, enthusiasm, determination, creativity, empathy, and healthy self-expression among others.
Whether you know Bev Bos or not, hopefully you’ve had wise and caring mentors and teachers who’ve inspired you in your work with young children. If you have, maybe you could send them a note to thank them. If you haven’t, maybe you could set a goal to find one this year. And, if you are a committed professional who cares deeply about children and families, maybe it’s time for you to be a mentor to others.
We all need wisdom, vision, reflection and inspiration every day. We all need Bev’s in our lives.