Kids stuff: Taking risks and persevering

Robin Skeen; photo by Camilla Calnan

Robin Skeen, Odyssey School’s elementary program director, discusses the anxiety young students face and the misconceptions people have about teachers.

What are the biggest challenges facing elementary students in 2023?

Elementary-age children in 2023 have a lot of big feelings and feel the weight of the world. I have been teaching since 1999 and have noticed a big shift in the amount of stress and anxiety students feel. When kids are feeling stressed, they can’t learn. That is why we use mindfulness in the classroom and teach about feelings, social and emotional cueing. Odyssey is fortunate to provide access to the outdoors. We have to think of the whole child more than we ever have before because our kids need us more now.

What do you love about being an educator?

I love being with children. I don’t know how people go through their whole day without the joy, authenticity and wonder that children bring. It is also very fulfilling to know that I am doing something so important. Being able to make such a difference in the world gives me a strong sense of purpose.

What is the biggest misconception people have about the role of teachers?

I have been in social settings and not known something for certain and people would say to me, “But you are a teacher!” The biggest misconception is that we know everything there is to know. What we do know is how children develop, what needs they have and how to meet them. And we pour our whole heart into what we do every day. Every day, we have little souls that are looking to us to know that everything is OK and that together we can read, write, add, subtract, have empathy, learn about the world, ask questions and find answers.

We do all of this with intention and purpose. We know what gets kids excited and how to love the act of asking good questions, taking risks and persevering. We know how to pull them into a book or get them excited about hard math. We inspire learning. We are also very good at making mistakes; any kid in my class will tell you, mistakes help you learn. My students love to struggle, they love to try new things and they are good at thinking! I may not know everything, but I know kids!


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